Dark and Stormy Landing
Are you ready for it?
LAURAN PAINE JR., EAA 582274
Let’s talk about an approach and landing in a way you won’t read about in the training manuals: the dark and stormy, bumpy and gusty, icy and wet one to the short
crosswind runway. You can fly a desktop procedure trainer
all day, and you still won’t be ready for the dark and stormy
You know what else? Probably 95 percent of you got your
instrument rating (me included) without ever flying the
nasty weather approach. Hey, at the fixed base operator, if
the weather was on the lousy side, you rescheduled and flew
another day. The instrument rating does, however, imply
increased utility. When you get it, you’re supposed to be
ready for the crummy weather approach. So let’s talk about
it, and if you haven’t flown one, take heed. If you have—and
many of you have—take note of the mental aspect of the
approach. It is insight into the pilot mind. The bottom line
is to get through the darn thing, to anticipate what it’s going
to be like, and to minimize surprises because, that way, you’ll
do a better job.
I remember one in particular, when even the birds weren’t
flying. Put yourself in the pilot seat of an airliner. Just as you
get to the end of the runway, ready for takeoff, ground control calls and says, “XYZ is down to single runway operation.
We’ve been asked to delay your departure for 45 minutes.”
In the cockpit, eyes open wide and jaws drop as you ask,
“Forty-five minutes, confirm?”
Ground responds apologetically, “Yes, sir.”
Great! Pull over at the end of the runway, shut down one
engine to conserve fuel, cross-feed so as not to get a fuel
imbalance, give the flight attendants the news, and then sit
and stare out the window and watch all the other airplanes
take off. This is the last leg at the end of a four-day trip and
you just want to get home.
While waiting, you review the approach at destination,
knowing it’s going to be a doozie. It’s a LOC DME (localizer/
distance measuring equipment) approach with several step-downs to the short crosswind runway. It’s 600 overcast, 2
miles visibility with rain, and the winds are 180 degrees to
210 degrees at 37, gusting to 45. Been there, done that, and
it ain’t pretty.
It’s 600 overcast, 2 miles visibility with
rain, and the winds are 180 degrees to
210 degrees at 37, gusting to 45. Been
there, done that, and it ain’t pretty.
The 45 minutes pass and you are cleared for takeoff. It is
one of those short shuttle flights, about an hour and a half.
As soon as the mains come off the ground, the bumps begin.
Next thing you know you are on a vector to intercept the
localizer at XYZ. It’s so bumpy that the autopilot trips off, so
you grab hold and fly. That’s probably the best thing to do
on this approach anyway; it’s better to be concentrating on
flying than programming. It gives you a better feel for what’s
going on with your airplane.
You’re on the localizer. First thing you notice…it’s hard to
hold your heading. You put it on 200 degrees, and next thing
you know it’s on 205 degrees. You think, “Am I that bad?”
Probably not—it’s the dang gusts and bumps. One wing-rock
is usually worth about 2 to 3 degrees of heading change, so
it takes extra effort to keep the heading where you want it.
Actually, to average the heading where you want it. You pad
the airspeed a bit and think you’re pretty smart for doing
that. It’s bouncing around plus or minus 15 knots anyway.
So, here you are, unable to read the approach plate because
of the bouncing, averaging the heading to keep the course