Up for another three hour session on New Year’s Eve. Soft field and Short Field landings. Soft is pretty obvious – get out the grass and mud as soon as you can. Pop her into the air as soon as you can – then wheelbarrow her down the runway a few feet off the ground in ground effect till she gets up enough airspeed. Short is different. You do a mad amount of math about air pressure prevailing at the altitude you are at in the prevailing temperature and humidity. Then you dial in aircraft performance at that figure, dial in older school aircraft needs another 10% runway – then student technique (meaning you need to be better than you are) add 15% runway length – then calculate that though you might be off the ground – you still need to clear the “standard” 50ft object (usually trees at the end of the runway). Add all that up and get to 50ft in the air before you run out of your number. But you practice on a runway that is much longer than you need!

It is all about aircraft handling – like boat handling – putting it exactly where you want it at the speed and direction you want. It is much more demanding than boat handling. One of my short fields yesterday DID meet the theoretical shortest run. But frankly it was more of a fluke that good handling. You need a lot to get proficient.

While we were waiting for one take off we had a scary helicopter landing on top of an aircraft pulling onto the runway right in front of us. The plane never saw the helicopter and the helicopter THOUGHT the plane was not rolling. I think about three of us all squawked on the radio simultaneously and the helicopter slipped sideways when they were about 50ft apart. Then there was the plane that made a determined attempt to stay on a collision course with us as we climbed out on one of our takeoffs. We went to a maximum rate climb to get over him. He was entering the traffic pattern (think roundabout around the airport) in the wrong place.

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