In flying short field work is when you are taking off or landing on a runway that is nearing the limitations of your airplane or where special procedures must be used to ensure you can land and stop before running out of runway. When taking off you use special techniques to get the airplane off the runway quickly and gain altitude over obstacles.
Just before I soloed for the first time my instructor introduced me to short field techniques but I hadn’t had much time to practice. After soloing several times to practice maneuvers and flying 3 solo cross country flights, it was time to develop some proficiency at short fields.
Last Friday’s lesson was at Gettysburg Regional Airport W05, a small strip of asphalt and that’s about it. No gas or buildings aside from some small hangers. It doesn’t even have taxiways; you have to do a U-turn on the runway and taxi back on the runway to take off – called back taxiing. It’s runway is a 3,100 ft x 60 ft of which only 2500 ft is usable for landing as compared to my home runway of 5100 ft x 100 ft all usable.
My first attempt was awful but out of 6 attempts I nailed 4 of them and did 2 go-arounds. When the runway is that short and narrow it makes it look like its further away than it is. You also feel like your higher than you are. Basically your sight picture is all off. You fly the pattern and everything the same as normal except that you have to be at 60 kts on final approach as compared to 70-75 kts on a normal final. This is because you CAN NOT float and don’t have time to bleed off speed slowly before landing like you do on a longer runway.
I was quite happy with the days practice and my instructor was pleased with my progress.
Becoming confident on short fields opens up so many possibilities for a small general aviation pilot as many very cool locations have runways in the 3000 ft range that larger aircraft cannot use. They make great weekend get away airports and take advantage of the utility of small aircraft.
Its also on the practical test/check ride. You have to perform a short field landing to get your pilot certificate…….
I didn’t have my camera mounted for this lesson but I did have my Stratus 2 running. It is an aviation GPS with pressure altitude sensor, flight data recorder, and ADS-A B in/out. When paired with my iPad and Foreflight it gives me a full set of gps/maps, weather, traffic radar, etc. Used by itself it records everything the plane is doing like a “black box” and I can download the file and analyze it back on my laptop. Called debriefing it allows me to sit back and look at every aspect of my flight and see what I did right and wrong and when. I can isolate specific points in time, such as each landing sequence and analyze it to help me improve my technique. To do this I use an online service called Cloudahoy.
So the video is synthetic, it uses the data from my Stratus 2 for location, altitude, pitch, bank, speed, etc and displays it using google earth. The Cloudahoy server analyzes the file and breaks the flight down into its individual sections automatically allowing me to pick and choose which ones to review. It also has a host of analytical tools, playback options, and applets that you can apply. It’s truly some amazing stuff. The video here is a simple playback using the data file. The pictures show some of the data screens available.