Text Box: WARBIRD NOTES # 17   25 Mar 95  (10)                 NO FLAP LANDINGS  I’ve just recently read a very informative book on flying written by a highly experienced instructor in both piston and jet aircraft.  However, in reading it I was amazed at one particular recommendation.  This was that if you are faced with a no flap landing that you "should fly a flatter than normal approach and also raise the seat in order to provide a better view".  I was really impressed with the entire book – up until this point!  These two points above represent, in my mind, a recipe for disaster!


  I remembered reading this recommendation somewhere in the dim and distant past in a DC-9 handbook.  I always wondered where in the world this particular bit of bad advice came from and always included it in my briefings or instructions for a no-flap landing.  Let's discuss why I believe this to be so and some of the possibilities. 


  If you are ever faced with a no-flap landing you are going to be (at least) a little bit more concerned and alert than during a routine landing.  Actually – if you are in a machine considered to be (by today's standards) of moderate speed then you probably aren't too bad off.  I routinely give a no-flap landing at the finish of a B-25 type rating checkride on a runway just about 4,000' long, as much to give the applicant confidence in his own ability as for me to see his performance of the maneuver.  With decent airspeed control he won't have any trouble at all.  I don't think it makes good sense to hand-crank the flaps down on a B-25 to avoid a no-flap landing if you consider the potential difficulties should you need to retract them during a go-around.  The B-17 presents a similar situation, both of these aircraft need only about 10 MPH added to the normal threshold speed and require only a moderately increased requirement in runway length.  Obviously on the bigger jets we have a different story but they aren't part of this discussion, we don't need to mix apples and oranges in this warbird article. 


  Every pilot has his own idea of an acceptable height above the threshold on a landing approach.  A duster pilot probably would be comfortable with 10' (or less), another pilot would routinely want to see 35' or 50' or whatever and in the 747 we needed more.  The important thing is to have a standard with which you're comfortable, the sight of anything else will cause your personal alarm system to activate.  Now, for the purposes of this article, let's say you need 25'.  If you fly a normal (just like an ILS) 21/2O to 3O  glidepath that crosses the end of the runway at 25' you'll probably touch down at 500'-700' down the runway using pretty normal piloting techniques.  O. K., let's do the same thing all over again but this time purposely flatten the approach or "drag it in" as advocated by some, including the author mentioned at the beginning of this article.  If you fly the approach this way you'll notice right away that your rate of descent is noticeably (a lot) less.  After you cross the end of the runway at 25' you'll find that the continued flat angle of descent carries you much further down the runway prior to touchdown than in the first example.  If you increase your descent rate after you're over the runway – or cut the power – you're purposely destabilizing the approach and setting yourself up for a hard landing or a porpoise or whatever.  And all for no good reason!  


  Now we can get around to talking about the second of the book's recommendations, that of readjusting the seat higher to give you a better view of the runway.  If you've already got an emergency of some magnitude going, why in the world would you choose to deliberately compound it by adding another element of unfamiliarity to that already existing?  I'm referring to the fact that the no-flap situation already is occupying your attention.  Your judgment, day to day, has been developed with your seat in the position you've considered normal for hundreds or thousands of hours, whatever.  Your sight picture has been developed using that seat position.  And now you say you're going to alter this sole remaining element of comfort and stability and recognition and familiarity?  Come-mon!  It's old advice but it still seems to make good sense to dance with the one who brought you.                


R. Sohn     1995   ©

maybe things to include:


     Now, consider something radically different, the Grumman F6F Hellcat, for instance.  Normally this aircraft provides adequate (everything's relative!) vision for the final approach with the flaps down.  With no flaps it becomes a radically different animal with the nose much higher and forward vision totally unavailable when lined up with the runway.    

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