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Short and Soft

No this is not a discussion about penis size and performance it’s about short field and soft field landings and takeoffs, silly 😉

Today I learned how to land and take off on air fields that are somewhat less then capable of supporting a jumbo jet. Let’s take the short field first. To takeoff the main thing is to start with the flaps at 10 degrees down to give the plane some lift as fast as possible. With the end of the runway approaching faster then normal this is a good thing. You also want to use as much of the runway as possible and turn facing the departure with the tail of the plane practically on the grass. You also put your feet on the brakes…and then give it full throttle, when all the instruments are green and the plane is at a high RPM you release the brakes and your off. You zip down the runway and start the roll out at about 55 knots, which is about 10 knots sooner then normal. You also want to climb as fast as possible because there might be an obstacle at the end of this short runway. So you putt the yoke back but not too far otherwise you risk stalling. In the plane I was in it was actually pretty hard to hold it down as it’s a quite powerful C172 and there was no problem gaining speed and altitude. Takeoff just isn’t that difficult in the thing.

Now after we loop around the pattern we come in and need to have full flaps deployed on the base leg so we are going about 60-65 on the base and we want to be between 55-60 for the final leg. You also want to aim for the very beginning on the runway, although landing too early into an earthen embankment (not to mention the power lines by the road) would make for a very unpleasant day. The main thing is to control the speed, you want to be very slow but not to the point of stall. I think on one go round the stall warning started to go off a tad early, that always grabs the attention, but it wasn’t that bad we were just about at the threshold. Then pulling back on the yoke to flair, you touchdown, sill hold the yoke back, retract the flaps while hitting the brakes at the same time. I did fairly good stopping pretty short, once we bobbled on the ground a bit more then I’d like but it wasn’t horrible.

Soft field takeoff is kinda cool. The idea is that you are supposedly taking off on grass or something like that and you also want to lift off as soon as possible, but without enough ground speed if you climb to fast you will stall. When you taki and start the takeoff you have the yoke pulled back all the way. The plane is tilting back very quickly so it’s hard to see and you have to ensure that you’re going straight, but you can’t really see the front of the plane or where it’s going. So you just lift off and are then supposed to fly level to the ground but building up air speed. After you have enough speed you pop back up and you’re all set. I didn’t do that great keeping the plane flying just above the ground it had a tendency to pop off very quick onto the air. After the third time it was much better and it’s a lot of fun to try also. For the soft field landing you come in like the usual landing everything is the same, final approach at 65 knots with full flabs. You try to flair a lot and a bit earlier then usual leaving the plane with a little bit of RPM to ease it in. Once you touch you continue to hold the yoke all the way back, cut to idle and don’t use the brakes cause the grass will slow you down.

We didn’t actually use a genuine short or soft field we just “pretended” at KGAI. But it was fun and I’d really like to try doing this on a real grass strip somewhere, and I know of a few short fields that I’d like to try as well.

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