In teaching the fine art of correctly flying the Stearman aircraft, occasions have arisen where some intense observations were made to determine student errors and how to correct those transgressions. Some errors show up over and over again in succeeding students. One such easily corrected – but very hard to detect – error makes it’s appearance at the moment of flare-out to a three-point landing.
This error is the failure to keep the hands and feet coordinated and balanced, so to speak, during controls application for the flare-out. The result of this error is nearly always a hard touch down with a following bounce and lurch as the plane protests the slewing out-of-line contact with the runway surface. Arrivals of this sort do little to enhance one’s prestige as a Stearman pilot!
What happens is that as the pilot pulls back on the stick, he fails to keep the stick perfectly aligned with the fuselage centerline. My observation has been that most of the time the stick is to the right of that centerline.
Accordingly, the left aileron drops just enough to make the plane want to raise its left wing. Then, because the pilot is trying to exert back pressure on the stick, unconsciously he braces himself by pushing some with his left foot. So, we now see a tail-low plane with nose to the left and a slightly high left wing, only split seconds from smacking the surface, being guided by a pilot who is beginning to wonder where the dad-blamed runway went!
The contributory cause of this error is that the Stearman fuselage is wide and the pilot’s legs must spread far apart to reach the rudder pedals, a position which is necessary to clear the area for the stick. The pilot must train himself to be watchful for the un-coordination it can promote. He must constantly strive to align his being with that of the plane, blend himself with the aircraft and then fly himself!
The pilot who has a consistent struggle effecting smooth, straight touchdowns may be making this very mistake.
Editors note: This is a reprint of an article from 1982 written by Bob Livingston. It is easy to glance over what he says, mutter “Yeah Yeah” to yourself and go on to the next page.
Read it again and the next time you are sitting in your cockpit on the ground, experiment with what kinds of shoulder and elbow motion is required to bring the stick straight back on the centerline.
You will see that your right elbow has to move out to the right to keep the stick on the centerline. If you let the elbow stay close to your right side, the stick is going to move to the right as it comes back, and that sets the stage for possible landing excitement.