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By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA 657159
June 2020 – You may have already read the first Aviation Safety Newsletter of the year, but if not you might like to read this. Most of us did not have to declare that the aircraft is stabilized during our PPL flight test, but it's a good idea, even if we just say it to ourselves.
The article, written for Transport Canada by Jean-Claude (JC) Audet, states:
“Meteorological conditions such as wind and turbulence, as well as other factors, still require the pilot to remain focused and apply control inputs as required.
Many VFR landing accidents in general aviation (GA), some fatal, are the result of loss of control, usually in flight, but also on the ground following touchdown. Many of these landing accidents are the direct consequence of the pilot failing to achieve a stabilized approach, and in some cases, failing to execute a timely and proper go-around.
In VFR, the circuit serves, among other things, the same purpose as the approach procedure in IFR. The circuit is designed to guide the pilot to a safe landing. As with IFR procedures, the quality, smoothness, and safety of the approach and landing will be directly related to whether or not the aircraft was stabilized prior to, or shortly after, establishing the aircraft on the final approach leg. The attention and accuracy with which the pilot flies, or enters the circuit, especially on a straight-in final,will determine how well the aircraft is positioned for a safe landing.
Transport Canada’s Flight Test Guide—Private Pilot Licence—Aeroplane was recently amended to include a stabilized approach for all approaches to a landing. During the flight test, and at some point on the approach, the candidate is expected to announce whether or not the aircraft is stabilized. That ‘’some point’’ is not as precisely defined as the FAF in IFR, and it may not be the moment the aircraft turns onto final, as further changes to the aircraft configuration and flight path may still be required. However, it is reasonable to assume that approximately half way between the base turn to final at 500 feet (ft) above ground level (AGL) and the touchdown point, the pilot would achieve a stabilized approach, with the proper power setting, speed, rate of descent, and landing configuration for the conditions of the day. By 200 ft AGL, the candidate is required to declare whether or not the approach is stabilized. If not, a go-around will be executed.”
I'm reminded of the excellent webinar presented by Rian Johnson and Mike Seager titled “Critical RV Flying Skills” but the content really relates to us all, whether we fly RVs or not. There was great emphasis during this webinar on actually developing those skills, rather than just getting the practice in during solely landings. The strongest message I took away from that webinar, and from JC's excellent comments about stabilized approaches, was to practice slow flight and stabilized decents in the practice area, or en route for that burger at the neighbouring airport that can somehow figure out how to stay in business with social distancing.