Last week I read an article in CFI-to-CFI by Rod Machindo, about something called the Eastman method (by him). Now Rod likes to write funny things, and much of what he write is not to be taken seriously. But this was about a gentleman called - wait for it - Eastman, who built his own single seat airplane many years ago and taught himself how to fly it.
Yes, a single seater. Illegal nowadays, but back then just following in the Wright brothers tradition. So what Mr. Eastman did was to taxi slightly faster each time, until the airplane just started to fly, then he'd land it and taxi back. That way he learned to land at the same time that he learned to fly, and by the time he gave it full power and took off around the pattern, he already knew how to land.
Student P has been ready to solo for the past 5 hours, but he's been unable to conquer landings. At about 50 feet his careful co-ordination goes to pot, the nose starts to wander left to right, up and down, and he gets too slow and levels out too high and lands with a thump thump thump, and no matter what I say he doesn't get it. So then we take off and 10 minutes later we've flown 8 miles around the pattern for 10 seconds of thump thump thump.
It wasn't working.
So last Saturday morning, P and I headed north to Grayson County airport, now known as North Texas Regional. KGYI has a 9,000 ft runway, and a cooperative control tower. I called the tower 10 miles out, and at 5 miles asked if we could do multiple touchdowns on each approach using the length of the runway. "Sure!" they said. "Cessna xyz cleared for the option runway 35 Right!"
Our first approach we did 4 touchdowns and used 8,000 feet. They weren't good apart from the first one. The rapid transitions were too much for poor P. The next time around we got 3, which worked better, as I handled the take offs and handed controls back to P at about 30 or 40 feet. The third time around we'd worked out the procedure. He did all the landings, then I would take over, keeping the flaps down I would add power, climb to 30 feet and accelerate to normal landing speed. Then I'd hand him the controls in a more normal configuration of speed, height and flaps.
By the end of 90 minutes, we'd done more than 20 touchdowns, and P was handing them like a pro. Next step, SOLO!!
The keys for any CFI or student - allow about 3,000 for each touchdown, roll and take off (3 was comfortable on the 9,000 foot runway, using 7,000 ft and departing with 2,000 ft remaining; 4 was not). The CFI should do the funny/weird stuff like taking off in landing configuration and only expect the student to do the actual landing. Once airborne, the CFI should accelerate the aircraft to normal approach speed before handing over control - not doing that sets up the plane for a nose high, slow speed mush to the ground. And find a place with a cooperative tower or a quiet uncontrolled field.
Thank you, Mr Eastman, and Mr. Machindo. P thanks you too!
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