Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deadstick Landing! "Don't try this at home".

1.  "Don't try this at home."
2.  "The sound of wind rushing around the plane is awing, blood-rushing, soothing, clearing, empowering, pulsing, privilege."

And now, on with the blog post....

The conversation at coffee break this morning ranged through politics, Cessna's profit and delivery woes, and eventually wandered towards aircraft landing speeds.  Sitting next to me was a seasoned Cessna 182/185 glider towplane pilot, and he mused how he had to keep his approach speed up on final, so that he could execute a successful flare into our grass strip.

We talked about how the Belite would do:  was I able to execute landings with the engine at idle?

Why yes, I thought I could land with the powerplant at idle.

Why not give it a try right then?

It so happened that I had our gorgeous 'Harley' orange and black Belite 254 ready for flight; we'd recently completed some upgrades to it, and it was sitting, begging to be flown.  I had test flown it earlier in the day, and I knew that it was ready to fly some more.  Did I say it's gorgeous?  Did I mention that it flies beautifully?


Why not?  Let's do this.  I hopped in, hit the electric starter, and the single cylinder CRE MZ-34 soon came to life.  (Nothing beats an electric starter on an airplane.)

After a brief warmup, I took off into the light south breeze, climbing at about 200 fpm.  (Amazing.  I weigh 200+; the engine is just a miserly little 28hp 'single lung', the prop isn't quite optimum... and yet the performance is great.)  I swung the obedient airplane around the pattern, turned base to final, and retarded the throttle to idle.  With the engine at idle, the plane easily floated over the runway, and I landed without any difficulty whatsoever.  After touching down, I hit the power, went around, and did it again and again.  The Belite lands effortlessly with the engine at idle.  There are zero issues with flare authority, even with the engine at idle.

At this point, you're probably wondering why I would call that a "Deadstick Landing".  Well, I wouldn't.  It wasn't a deadstick landing.  But I had a sly thought....   why not try a true deadstick landing? 

And so the next time I came around and turned final, I verified to myself that the runway was assured.  And I reached over and turned off the ignition.  The engine went from idle to off... and the windmilling prop stopped.  I was floating over the runway a moment later, and flared to a beautiful, light landing with no noise other than the wind over the wings and the roll of the wheels.

I told Gene to grab the camera.  I wanted to do that again!

I fired the engine back up, took off, and did a couple more true deadstick landings, with Gene recording the sequence.  There's some great pics!  Note the stopped position of the prop in each photo...

Here's some final comments.

1)  This plane is for sale!
2)  The cowling was not installed.
3)  The sound of wind rushing around the plane is awing, blood-rushing, soothing, clearing, empowering, pulsing, privilege.


parsonsannie said...

James looks awesome in this plane! Was surprised to see it was orange, however. Ann P

Anonymous said...


yes the sound of the air going by is everything you describe as long as you turned the engine off by choice, when it stops on takeoff 80ft over a lagoon its not so pleasant!