PHOENIX LANDING TECHNIQUES
The Phoenix motorglider is a taildragger with a twist. The tailwheel is controlled by the rudder pedals via cables to the rudder and steel rods connecting the rudder to the wheel. The tailwheel never “breaks free” or castors. Also,the main wheel disc brakes are controlled by a lever on the left control stick, which operates both main wheel brakes equally when used. There is no differential braking. The steerable tailwheel and lever operated brakes provide the ability to fly the Phoenix in crosswinds that ground most other taildraggers, with little worry of groundloops when certain techniques are mastered.
The Phoenix can be landed using the 3 point or wheel landing. Wheel landings (landing on the mains and then holding the tailwheel off until speed is reduced) are easier and can be made with more precision than 3 point landings. But the 3 point landing is critical when there is a crosswind blowing (because the tailwheel is on the ground and tracking can be controlled with the rudder pedals), so that is the first and primary technique to master.
The 15 meter tips give the Phoenix a 32/1 glide ratio which means that there will be a lot of float or ground effect within 10 feet of the ground. The glide ratio with the 11 meter wingtips is 20/1 which reduces the ground effect and also the amount of patience required by the learning pilot. Also, when the spoilers are fully deployed after touchdown with the short tips, the plane remains planted on the ground with less chance of a bounce even if the plane touches down with extra energy. Therefore the short tips can reduce the amount of training required and are normally used first when landing training commences.
The stall angle of attack is the same as you view the Phoenix in the 3 point stance on the ground or from the cockpit. No special angle of attack must be sought during the landing, the only job is to hold the plane 1 foot off the ground,and keep it flying with slow back stick motion as required, until the stall is reached and the plane touches down.
The round panel with the left side seating position produces a sight picture that makes everyone think they are lined up straight when in fact the plane is pointed left. Think about the sight picture as you taxi down the taxiway. And remember the four forces resulting in left turning tendencies? They don’t help either.
Landings involve the same techniques with long or short tips with one major difference. With the long tips and fully deployed spoilers, there is still enough wing producing lift to be able to enter ground effect and make a normal landing.However, there is not enough lift produced with the short tips with full spoilers, so we never enter ground effect with full spoilers with the short tips. Otherwise, on attempted rotation to the landing pitch attitude,the plane could stall and hit the runway hard. Consequently we initially teach the half-spoiler landing technique for both 15m and 11m spans.
PATTERN AND LANDING – 11 METER SPAN
Once pattern altitude is reached, reduce power to 4000rpm and fly 70kts. Perform the landing checklist (GPSFUSTALL). Turn base and reduce power to idle. Use the spoilers for glide path control. Fly 60kts on final, maintaining a little extra height and then hold the spoilers at half for the remaining segments of the landing. Have enough height that reducing spoilers on short final is not necessary to make the runway, which involves added complications. Do not adjust the spoilers in ground effect! Finish the round out within 8 feet of the runway. Slowly descend to the runway until the wheels are 1 foot above the runway, on the right side where you can see the centerline. Look ahead to the left at the centerline about 100 feet where you can see detail in the runway and the centerline. Track the centerline back towards you and then jump ahead 100 feet again. Keep doing that with your eyes. Glancing across at the edge of the runway also helps judge your height above the runway. Use the laser beam focus of your central vision down the runway to judge your height.
Hold the plane off the runway. Don’t let it land. Keep pulling back on the stick as necessary to maintain 1 foot height. Try to touch down tailwheel first. You can’t. But if you try hard enough, you will continue to pull back on the stick until the stall is reached and the plane lands. Anticipate the landing, and when it happens, pull the spoiler handle full aft to full open position to reduce the stall speed even further and keep the plane planted on the ground. Keep the stick right where it was for the touch down. Don’t pull it further back (the elevator still has enough power to pry the plane back off the runway especially in gusty winds) and certainly don’t ease it forward.If the stick goes forward, the tailwheel will come back off the ground and you will lose directional stability. Don’t move the stick!
If you lack patience and touch down early, keep the stick in the touch down position, don’t push or pull. This will reduce the height of the bounce, and you can smoothly pull again as the plane descends to the second, and hopefully,final touchdown. If it is a high bounce (more than 1 foot) or more than one bounce, go around. Close the spoilers and add full power. The Phoenix climbs fast and gets you out of the danger zone in a hurry. You will not be struggling down the runway at minimum speed as in most other small single engine planes. A balked landing and go-around is a tool every pilot should have and be ready to use. A prompt go-around is the sign of a good pilot, not a failed landing.
Once on the ground, keep about 1 pound of force on each rudder pedal to keep them aligned in the neutral position. Apply very light pressure to one side or the other for directional control. It only takes very small adjustments on the rudder pedals when the plane is rolling at 40kts. Keep the spoilers full open until clear of the runway. When doing touch and go’s, don’t be too quick to close the spoilers on the go or you may get airborne unexpectedly or lose control directionally as the tailwheel comes back off the ground. Slow way down to 20kts or so before closing the spoilers and adding power for another take-off.
The key to a successful landing is reciting a mantra during the deceleration in ground effect. Think to yourself “don’t let it touch, don’t let it touch, don’t let it touch” or “keep it flying, keep it flying, keep it flying”all the way to the touch down. Then slam open the spoilers, don’t move the stick, and make very small corrections with the rudder and you’ve got it made in the shade.