Soft-field Take offs and Landings

7/6/15: The weather was not conducive to safe solo flying. Visibility was not good (Heavy Haze) So we decided to  practiced Soft-Field landing and Take Off.  KCDW airport was very busy this morning and was not permitting pattern work at this time so we flew to KMMU (aka Morristown Airport).  A hope, skip and a jump to get there.  This was my first time flying to KMMU and was actually a pretty simple airport to practice on.

The technique requires your understanding of A/C performance and characteristics such as knowing Vx ( 66kts/76mph) and Vy (75kts/86mph ).  The trick is to” transfer weight from the landing gear  to the wings  as quickly and smoothly as possible to eliminate drag caused by surfaces such as tall grass, soft dirt or snow”.  In the event you want to land and takeoff at an airport with soft surface terrain such as grass, a pilot  should know how to maneuver in such conditions. (2014)

Tom had me simulate taxi on a soft surface using full back pressure on the yoke to maintain full-up elevator( in my case stabilator) with enough power to keep plane moving ( helps transfer nose wheel weight to the main landing wheels). It also helps protect the propeller from hitting the ground due to uneven terrain.

I set flaps to 25 degrees and as soon as we were cleared for take off i proceeded onto ramp with out stopping and holding yoke full back to raise nose-wheel. decreasing back pressure as plane speed increases. As the plane lifts off ground I reduced  back pressure and let the airplane lift but keeping it in ground effect ( Plane is flying level several feet from the surface) till I reach Vx and start to pitch my plane for climb and gradually reduce flaps to 10 degrees then full out or zero flaps. That was fun!!

On landings, the weight transfer is opposite. We want to transfer weight from the wings to the main landing gear gently and slowly as possible while keeping nose wheel off ground during most of the landing roll. This will help prevent nose wheel from sinking into the ground and sudden abrupt stopping. Tom had me fly the normal landing configuration with full flaps.  During the flare I had to hold to plane just above the ground for as long as possible with some power until the main wheels touch down and with nose high, holding nose wheel off ground for as long as possible. This also requires minimal braking as best as possible again, to help avoid issues related to soft surfaces.

Reference:

Jeppesen (2014) Guided Flight Private Pilot maneuvers, Englewood, CO.