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From Flight Operations and Safety


Jim Higgins, Standards Officer WVFC


How Do You Unlearn Something?


Cessna's Skyhawks and Skylanes are very similar.  The larger sibling is a very common and fairly straightforward step up from the smaller.  After learning in a 172, flying a 182 is not a radical new way of thinking.  But there are some significant handling differences—especially down close to the runway after closing the throttle and while flaring for touchdown.  


Due to its larger engine the 182 is nose heavy in the flare, which makes it easy to land flat (or worse, nose-first).  Also, the heavier total weight and wing loading makes it drop out of the sky after closing the throttle.  While that’s great for short field performance, it poses an issue for the unprepared pilot after cutting power over the threshold like is typical in the 172.  The result can be a hard landing due to the unexpected drop after closing the throttle.  Accompanied by the nose heaviness, those hard landings are often NOT on the main gear only, the way all landings should be—especially the hard ones.


Accordingly, we’ve had a few incidents recently where hard, flat landings have caused significant damage to our Skylane fleet.  There is a bracket that secures the nose strut to the airframe that WVFC pilots have bent and broken 4 times recently from hard flat landings.  The bracket itself doesn’t look like much, but it’s a $4000 part and is typically backordered by a month.  So, while the DWP or insurance may cover the cost, the plane still ends up being grounded for over a month.  For any of you frustrated by our 182 availability lately, this is a large part of the problem.  


Back to the title of this article… I personally believe that most of these 182 landing problems are a direct result of how easy it can be to land a 172!  One of the things that makes the 172 great and so popular is how forgiving it can be.  And for new students trying to get the hang of it, that can be awesome. 


Unfortunately, though, for 182 pilots, a 172 can make you lazy and accepting of poor landing technique.  Almost every airplane should be landed softly, and on the mains, but the 182 demands it and is unforgiving of poor technique.  During the initial a/c checkout with a CFI watching every move, pilots learn the landing discipline required to handle the Skylane.  And all of the pilot’s subsequent 182 landings reinforce that discipline.  The problem happens when we go back to a 172 for local flights that are cheaper, easier, and more common.  Bad landings don’t typically hurt the 172, but they can hurt the pilot’s skill by allowing and reinforcing poor technique.  Then when it’s time for a longer trip or mountain flight in a 182, that pilot’s deteriorated landing skill can hurt the airplane and possibly themselves and their passengers.  I’m not saying to limit your flying diversity, but please remember the differences in the aircraft you fly and don’t lose what you fought so hard to gain!