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flying pictures

We putzed around in Memphis longer than planned, the result being that I was wheels-up later than I would have liked, because I wanted to get home by sunset. Which I managed, thanks to the winds aloft being lighter than forecast. But the sun was still pretty low in the sky by the time I got near home. I was also flying from clear skies towards some rainstorms, so it got progressively more cloudy and gloomy the closer I got to home. It didn't worry me, but it did make the landscape very photogenic.

I flew past the airport I learned to fly at (our planes are based at a smaller airport north of town now). I like this picture because it looks as though I'm on a long high final for runway 32R, but really this was taken out the side window, and I'm flying past the airport from left to right. If I were actually intending on landing here and saw that out my front windscreen, I'd be in for a really interesting (read: unsafe) approach, as any pilot looking at this perspective can tell.

Tired of trying to capture the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers with the camera (I still need to sort out which of many not-quite-perfect pictures is the best), I settled on the you-are-here version and took a picture of the GPS. MWA was the next waypoint in my flight plan--Marion, Illinois. I was about 90 minutes from home. This is the geeky part of flying.

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( 9 comments — Comment )
recursive
Oct. 29th, 2003 10:49 pm (UTC)
I even know how scary that sort of approach is from MS flight sim. In fact, I'm pretty sure I did something like that the first time I ever tried to land.
szasz
Oct. 29th, 2003 11:14 pm (UTC)
My first flight instructor spent several hours convincing me that what at the time looked like a disastrously shallow approach angle is, in fact, correct. I kept trying to come in about as shown in my photograph here, and he'd just shake his head and say, very gently, "this is never going to work."

What finally sank in was that sure, you're flying in three dimensions, but the movement in Z is much slower than the movement in X or Y. All vertical angles in normal flight are, when you draw them on paper, very shallow.

I once worked out that if the earth were a basketball, its atmosphere would be little more than a thin film covering it. That image generates the same perspective.
recursive
Oct. 30th, 2003 12:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, I recall I did a landing like that in MS flight sim, but I ended up missing the first 2/3 of the runway and barely stopping before the end of it.

The proper approach angle is particularly evident looking out the side window of an airliner landing in SFO, where you get really low, and you're still over the water for quite a good horizontal distance, before the runway appears below and a fraction of a second later, the landing gear touches down. Of course, I'm sure that in a situation of that sort where if you landed short of the runway, you'd take a dunk in the bay, the PAPI (or VASI - I guess they're the same principle anyway) is really good to have.
jonroma
Oct. 30th, 2003 09:01 am (UTC)
What was your altitude as you snapped the shot of CMI as you passed? What should your altitude have been at that position above the ground if you were intending to make a normal landing? From your position and altitude, how wide a turn and descent would you have to make to get to the altitude to make a proper approach on 32R?

Would love to see pictures of the southernmost tip of Illinois and the Cairo bridges (road and rail). There's probably little chance of a train passing over the bridge and approaches while you happened to be overhead.

Going to Memphis again any time soon?
szasz
Oct. 30th, 2003 10:47 am (UTC)
I don't recall my exact altitude; I was on a descent from 5500 to pattern altitude at Rantoul at the time, and I think Champaign Approach told me to maintain at or above 3500. So say about 4000 feet, which is 3250 AGL. Eyeballing it, it looks like I'm about two miles from the runway threshold, maybe somewhat less (you can barely see route 45 in the photo). So at best, that's about a 20 degree glide slope. (A typical approach is about 3 degrees, with 5 considered quite steep.) 20 degrees means that at a standard final approach speed of about 80 knots, I'd have to be in an almost 3000 foot per minute descent to make the runway. Oh and I'd have to have enough energy to arrest that descent since I obviously can't land while falling 3000 feet per minute. So I'd have to apply a huge amount of power, hold airspeed, get into a sane flare-to-land attitude, and then cut power again. No thanks.

Two miles from the runway, I should be well into my descent out of pattern altitude (normally about 800 feet AGL, or at CMI, about 1500 feet on the altimeter), so say at this distance from the runway, about 500 feet AGL would be a pretty good altitude.

If I were trying to land and saw what this picture shows, I'd simply start a descent to pattern altitude and overfly the runway. CMI is a towered airport, so I'd have to tell them that the landing wasn't going to work and that I'd need to go around the pattern one more time. It'd still be a pretty hefty descent, but I'm guessing I could get down from 4000 to 1500 feet by the time I was on the downwind leg. So the flight path from this perspective would be: start a pretty healthy descent (maybe 700-1000 f/min) and just fly straight ahead along the runway. When about half a mile or so past the far end of the runway, turn left (assuming a left traffic pattern) 90 degrees, then left another 90 degrees. Ideally that puts me flying back the way I came, about half a mile or so to the left of the runway as seen from this persepective. From there it's a normal descent, turn to base leg, then turn to final, and land.

At an uncontrolled field with no tower, the only way you're supposed to enter the pattern is on a 45 degree angle from the downwind leg. So I'd just make a 45 degree left turn here, start a descent, fly out a minute or two, then make a right 180 degree turn, which would have me coming back towards the airport. Descend to pattern altitude, and when intercepting the downwind, make a 45 degree right turn to join the downwind and proceed as before.

And more pictures are coming. :)
szasz
Oct. 30th, 2003 11:09 am (UTC)
Actually I don't think there's any way an Archer could descend 3000 feet per minute and not exceed maneuvering speed. Certainly there's no way to get that kind of descent rate at 80 knots. She just wants to fly too badly.,
starstraf
Oct. 30th, 2003 09:16 am (UTC)
When are you flying to Lawrence to come have dinner with us?
szasz
Oct. 30th, 2003 09:26 am (UTC)
Heh, a quick trip into the flight planner says that'd be about a 3 hour flight. Assuming no wind; and the wind is usually out of the west, so possibly considerably longer... long enough to require a fuel stop. So we'd have to plan this when the winds are not very strong. :)

LWC looks to be a nice little airport, but it's hard to tell from the airport directory sometimes.
starstraf
Oct. 30th, 2003 12:17 pm (UTC)
Che and I flew into it once, and it has had some improvements since then.

We have a guest room if it turns out to be an overnight trip.
( 9 comments — Comment )

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