Virginia Aviation History Project, Landings

Landings by Norm Crabill

Getting an airplane back on the ground safely and smoothly is a task that requires paying attention to – – everything! Each one is different, and you don’t want to hurt the airplane or scare your passengers.

Over the course of 35 years and 2800 hours of flying, I can remember just TWO perfect landings where I could not tell when the wheels actually touched the runway, and many others that were OK, and some that were NOT SO GOOD!

Like the time I was practicing landing in my Cessna 190 at Gloucester airport with my son Carl in the right seat at different approach speeds – 30% above stall , and then 20% above stall. The Gloucester airport had trees along the left side and a crosswind from that direction. The first one at 30% (standard procedure for light winds) went ok, but the 2nd one at 20% – dropped in from several feet and bounced back with a loud noise into the air nose up. I did a Full power abort and flew back to Patrick Henry and checked the gear for damage . It was ok, but it took awhile for us to get ok too. Evidently, the trees shielded the wind and when we got down to the runway, our 20% speed margin wasn’t enough to handle the no wind condition at the runway., so we STALLED in. Doing that in the 190 was not a good idea, since the all-steel landing gear strut had NO SHOCK ABSORBING capability, and being a tail dragger , the spring load was AHEAD of the airplane CG, resulting in the severe nose-up result.

Another time was landing at the airport near Lake Louise VA, in a severely gusty crosswind in a Cesan182 with a passenger, and I got it on the ground but it felt like the wind was going to raise the tail and fl ip us over on the nose. Another full power abort, and returned to Richmond Airport, where the cross wind was less disturbing. Thank goodness the 182 had a tricycle gear.

Many times I landed at Washington National Airport in a 182 coming over the Pentagon at 300 feet and touched down ON THE NUMBERS for runway 15 just beyond the 10 foot fence, and turned off well before intersecting runway 18 which was busy with traffic. I had told the tower that I would do that, and they let me do it many times. In those days, the GA FBO was at the North end of the fi eld, and it was very convenient not to get inline for all that traffic for 18.

I flew Ercoupes out of the factory in Riverdale MD, which is right next to College Park Airport. Many times the College Park Traffic would be off my right wing a few hundred feet while I was on downwind for landing at ERCO. No problem, we all recognized the situation, and behaved.

And those Ercoupes! They had no ruder pedals, so crosswind landings were NOT done like conventional aircraft with the cross-wind wing banked into the wind and the top rudder used to maintain direction , but in the Ercoupe were done with wings level, turned into the wind., with the projected track straight down the ruway. No problem. One Ercouper told me he did it in a 25 mph direct crosswind. I made many landings in those Ercoupes with my hands IN MY LAP, with no problem. Didn’t even have to flare, since that trailing link main gear had a 12 inch-travel shock absorber . The FBO at the ERCO Field used to land them with his hands straight up out of the canopy to show us how easy it was.

You can’t get that capability in current GA aircraft now.

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