GAARMS Report: August 2016 fred-gibbs
Fred Gibbs

Y’all keep up the good work, er, I mean good flying…and for most of us, that means the shiny side up and the pointy end going forward. OK, I know, some of the older planes don’t have pointy fronts, so in that case, keep the loud end going forward. Unless you fly helicopters, then all bets are off…

All across Arizona, forest fire season is here. Should you see any smoke plumes or fires, please remember to report the location(s) to ATC ASAP, either as radial/distance or lat/long coordinates. They will then relay that info onto the Forest service to take action. We are the eyes in the skies, and they definitely appreciate any and all reports.

gaarms 2016 august 1

With Monsoon season upon us, dodging thunderstorms is a serious issue, not a game of chicken. Even as good as ATC radar is, the view out the windshield is the most critical. Sure, ATC can keep you clear of the boomers, but what about those shafts of virga? What impact do they/can they have on your aircraft? What about that lightning off your left wing? Or the outflows of those downdrafts under those cells? Yeah, OK, you got ADS-B “in” with Nexrad radar on your iPad, so you are comfy dodging the heavy yellow areas. Well, you are dodging old weather, sometimes as much as 15 minutes old, so you really are “Betting your life” on that old information. If you intend to fly VFR around boomers, you better give them a very wide berth, and get help from ATC. Big thunderstorms and little airplanes do not mix...

Did you know that the congress passed the FAA re-authorization bill with the medical reform in it? YUP, but now the FAA has a year to come up with their plan on how to implement it, so don’t expect any quick relief from your medical any time soon...

gaarms 2016 august 2RULES TO FLY BY:
As a pilot only two really bad things can happen to you:
One day you will walk out to your airplane knowing that this is your last flight; or
One day you will walk out to your airplane NOT knowing that this is your last flight.

I was reading a most interesting article the other day that addressed flying the traffic pattern and, specifically, the base and final approach legs. For the past 50 years that I have been flying, the FAA, in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), has recommended specific downwind, base, and final approach legs, with a stabilized approach on the final approach leg. The discussion centered around the “dreaded” base-to-final turn, and the associated stall and loss of control issue. There was the suggestion that we abandon that philosophy, and adopt the military version, that is, the curved approach that “Maverick” always flies on his approach to the runway, or the carrier. The thought process behind that is, I presume, if you never have to make a 90 degree turn, with the associated increase in bank angle, you should never stall, thus reducing your chance of a base-to-final stall, and ultimately reducing fatal accidents during that phase of flight. Interesting…

gaarms 2016 august 3

So, I went out and flew some – deliberately. Although I will admit, in my flying experiences I have made those curved approaches quite often, but they are much easier when I have the runway environment in sight all the way around. That is easy to do in a low wing aircraft or out of the cockpit of Maverick’s glass-canopied F-14, but it is not so easy in a high wing C152, C172, or C182, or even the C210 that I occasionally fly. As soon as I drop that wing, the airport disappears from view, and only comes back into view the last 30-40 degrees of the turn onto final. This does not leave much time to both line up on the runway and stabilize the approach.


So, I sit here pondering... Hmmmmm, should I consider teaching a student pilot the curved approach method? What are the pro’s and con’s? Let’s start with the pro’s.

Well, some folks think that the gentle continuous approach will improve safety by eliminating the “dreaded base-to-final turn” – a noble cause in and of itself, and it apparently works quite well for the military. It dates way back to World War 2 and navy carrier landings. Just try landing a long nosed F4U Corsair using the straight in approach – NEVER HAPPEN! You had to make a curved approach just to be able to even see the carrier, and you would never ever see the carrier deck over that nose!! But even the curved approach had a stabilized final approach leg – line up on, and fly, the “Meatball,” the very sophisticated approach light system used on the aircraft carriers today. So, either way, a stabilized approach is necessary for safe landings.

gaarms 2016 august 4

So how about some con’s – well, I believe that the 3 legged approach process serves us quite well with regard to training students how to land. I teach the stabilized approach process for all 3 legs, which includes the completed checklist and configuration of the aircraft for each leg. This gives the student time to learn the checklist, learn what each action of the checklist is and should produce, and then confirm that those actions resulted in the expected result. If the results are not what we expected, the student needs to recognize them, determine a course of action, take that action, and then re-analyze those results to see if the end results are what is required. And doing all of this, while trying to maintain a continuous turning maneuver, all the while descending closer and closer to the ground, is not my idea of a safe learning environment. Throughout the turn, when do you slow down to gear speed? When do you lower the gear? Add flaps? What angle of bank is too much? Is it a constant power setting or a variable power reduction all the way around? What if the tower tells you to “Square up your base leg”? Uh, tower I don’t know how to fly a square pattern….. And I believe a constant turning approach, in a wing up attitude all the way around in a standard left hand pattern, creates a huge blind spot out the right side of a low wing aircraft, preventing me or you from seeing other aircraft either on a modified base leg or on final. Sure, at a towered airport this may not be a big deal because the tower’s job is to safely separate traffic, but at non-towered airports, I would think it is a BIG deal! This is not to say I never fly curved approaches, because I do, but usually with a large dose of safety thrown in. We practice these, often referred to as “emergency landings”!!! In these situations, we do not have the luxury of being able to fly nice square patterns or even pretty patterns. We need to get to the safety of the runway environment – specifically, short final – in some semblance of a short stabilized final approach mode from which we can make a “pseudo-normal” landing. The perfect reason – and place - to know how to make a curved approach!

gaarms 2016 august 5

Thus, each has its reasons for existence, but the remaining question is – In primary training, should the curved approach be taught as the “New norm” vs. the old standard, the 3-legged approach? A point to ponder…

Should you desire a safety or educational program at your local airport, simply contact APA via our website and connect with me through the Safety Program Director. You can also contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me at 410-206-3753. The Arizona Pilots Association provides the safety programs at no charge. We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like.