One Of Those Landings

People never remember the stuff that impresses pilots. I guess they don’t notice it.

The descent  took more planning than usual due to mountainous terrain, high winds and convective weather in the area.  It didn’t pay extra though.

There was a bit of a “set to” with approach control when I needed a course deviation for weather and the controller said in kind of a pissy voice “I don’t show any weather at your 12 o’clock” My response was something about us having radar AND windows both of which require the turn we are making now. So the turn was approved after the fact but we were moved back in the line-up. It didn’t piss me off at all, not even a little bit, I’m surprised I even remember it.  There isn’t room in the cockpit to throw a fit anyway.

 What would have been four mile right hand traffic pattern turned into an eight mile left handed wifferdill back across the approach course and eventually to the runway. That’s ok. Really. Even though it didn’t pay extra. It does not piss me off. Not a bit.

There was a lot of headwind so I delayed landing gear extension until late in the approach to save fuel. This also makes the approach quiet for not only those on the ground but also our valued passengers. 

Even with the wind changing by about thirty knots from a thousand feet to the surface the visual approach was flown within three or fours knots of target speed all the way down. That’s no big deal, we just do it that way now.  If we don’t the airplane will rat us out to management via satellite datalink before we even land.

Somewhere about four feet above touchdown everything tried to turn to shit. This is an aviation term meaning an unexpected decrease of aircraft threshold energy resulting in a rapidly increasing sink rate,  ie. about to crash.

Small abrupt windshear events cause this sort of thing and other than messing up what would have been an ordinary landing are no big deal. Usually.

Most often when this happens a pilot will raise the nose in order to arrest the sink rate. Since the wheels of a swept wing airplane are way behind the center of gravity this “rotates” the landing gear into the cement with considerable velocity. The sink rate of the airplane might actually decrease but the wheels will Spank the ground. This is generally perceived as a “bad” landing.

So, what makes this memorable for me is that instead of the intuitive yank back on the yoke, or even just a little positive back pressure, or a flinch that would have smacked the wheels down I actually saved it through clever use of the 727 Roll-On.

The roll-on is one of those techniques that is actually a category of maneuvers. All of which are performed below 3 feet of altitude with various results. There is the roll-on, the modified roll-on, the hoy-yah, and others. Landing a large jet is a lot like surfing in this regard. A lot of times you might not know what trick you just did unless somebody else gives it a name.

The 727 roll-on gets it’s name from the Boeing 727 which has all three of it’s engines above the center of gravity and the wheels way behind the C.G. If you can manage to get the 727 about 5 feet high and just goose the thrust a little while pushing the nose down a good landing usually is the result.

The landing that resulted today was truly something to be recorded. There was no perceptible difference between the part where we were flying and the part where we weren’t. Exactly at the touchdown target zone  the wheels began to brush, then carress the runway. Gently the roundness of the tires meshed with the raised  areas between the grains of concrete and friction started to take place. The wheels spun up to the speed of the airplane gradually instead of suddenly and the struts began to accept the weight of the airplane gracefully as it was smoothly offered by the wings in  little increments. I made some smart ass remark like “I think the number three tire is a little out of round” to the First Officer as I turned off of the runway half way down.

This was one of those landings that happens maybe once a year for me and I fly a lot. I also generally make smooth landings but this was different. This was a combination of physics, art, skill, and blind stumbling luck. It was mine though, the best one of the year so far and nobody said a damn word about it. Not a single wow, oh my, or kiss my ass, from anybody on the airplane. That doesn’t piss me off any either. Not even a little.

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4 Responses to “One Of Those Landings”

  1. Congratulations – usually when I notice strange wind patterns just before landing, a rough slamdown of the wheels landing is inevitable. Now I know why!

    Just the observation of a semi-frequent flyer. I bet you didn’t even get applause :/

  2. Poetry in motion! Congratulations.

  3. Bravo! Well done.

    The problem with your job (and mine) is that when you do something with finesse and as gently as possible no-one else notices and just thinks it’s routine.

    No-one applauds me either.

  4. Flydaddy Says:

    I’ve always noticed that the 9/10ths greaser gets vastly more ‘nice landings’ than the ‘once a year 10/10ths greaser.’ My theory is that people figure it must have been ‘easy’ if the outcome was that good…

    Love the FAs that solicit applause for the good ones, which, in my book, earns them the right to bitch about the truly ugly ones.

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