Pilot's tip of the week

Slipping to Comply with ATC?

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Subscriber question:

"Yesterday, Tower told me to 'make a short approach' and 'keep it tight.' I found myself extending flaps while turning base and then slipping while turning final. It all worked out. But afterward, I asked myself: Was that a demonstration of skill and ADM ... or foolishness?" — Jane E.

Bob:

“I’d like to break this question into several parts. First and foremost, ATC should never direct a pilot to a very short final. Their failure to plan should never create an issue for pilots.

If asked by ATC to speed up, slow down, perform a 360 (etc.) and this request does not fit your individual situation due to task saturation, proficiency, skill level, or any other reason — simply reply ‘Unable.’ It may delay your approach, but better a delay than a tragic result from an unexpected request.

Secondly, let’s learn from the airlines. They demand a stabilized approach from their professional, well-trained pilots. The definition may vary from airline to airline, but the intent is clear. Don’t be chasing the aircraft to the runway. There are many tiger pilots out there that love a challenge such as this. But, consider the downside. Most aviation fatalities occur from loss of control at low altitude/airspeed. How do you stabilize the aircraft while slipping and configuring while in a turn? That’s asking a lot from most pilots.

Many pilots are very comfortable and confident slipping an aircraft on final. That comes from practice—and lots of it. The very fact that you are raising this issue indicates that when asked by ATC to perform this action it created another question in your mind. Who needs a distraction such as this on final approach?

One additional thought: Some manufacturers specifically placard their aircraft that slips are not allowed with flaps extended. Not sure if that’s their lawyers or their safety folks speaking, but it is a reality we must acknowledge.”

If Tower asked you to "make a short approach" that you knew would require a slip to landing, would you do it?

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