Landings, by Norm Sanders
Air brakes or spoilers should not be deployed automatically just because the aircraft is on final. Wait for a definite overshoot situation. In the case of Tyagarah, there is often quite serious sink just off the ends of the runways. Plan for it. While we emphasize the fact that we treat the motorgliders as GLIDERS, the motor should be started in an undershoot situation. Motor start-up should be undertaken at the first sign of being too low and not at the last moment.
It is also important to maintain speed in an undershoot situation. The tendency to pull back on the stick as the ground gets closer is a typical reaction, most noticeable in Cessna and Piper skydrivers. Most of them have NEVER landed without the engine running. When the engine quits and they get near the ground, they panic and start pulling back on the controls, forgetting that it isn’t pointing the nose at the sky which makes the plane climb, it is the ENGINE! No engine. They stall and may spin into the ground. Ruins their whole day.
Glider pilots are very practiced at engine-less landings, but I have still seen pilots slow down almost to stalling in undershoot situations. This is bad for a number of reasons: The aircraft may, in fact, stall. If it doesn’t, it is wallowing along with poor control response and much slower than the maximum L/D speed. This is just the time when you need all the glide ratio you can get. In addition, there is penetration into the wind to consider. Slowing down in a strong headwind reduces the ground speed markedly, making it even more difficult to reach the runway.
The bad landing which results from a bad approach often incorporates a nasty bounce because the tail is still up in the air when the main wheel hits the ground. The tail drops, the angle of attack increases and the aircraft leaps back into the air. It is not really flying and has lost the cushioning of ground effect. Glider pilots often pull on full airbrakes at this time to get back on the ground. WRONG! The aircraft is already teetering on the edge of a stall. The wings need all the lift they can produce to let the aircraft down as easily as possible. Dropping to the ground with full airbrake can cause damage to the un-sprung motorglider landing gear. The time for full airbrakes is when the aircraft is on the runway. In general, touchdown should be made with half airbrakes. Motorfalkes can tolerate full brake, but gliders with more efficient systems won’t flare and will just fly into the ground.
That’s enough about landings for now.