(reprinted from March, 2014)
Fact: a final approach of moderate steepness makes it easy to judge the glide path, control it, and touch down on your intended spot. It’s that simple. Flat approaches leave you vulnerable to sink or other difficulties, and extremely flat approaches are downright dangerous. Very steep approaches on the other hand can be too effective, like showering with a fire hose. Take a clue from Goldilocks.
Many folks habitually deploy spoilers too early and end up low before ever turning base leg. Then for the rest of the flight, the lower they sink the fewer options they have, all because of using too much spoiler too early. There’s a no-brainer solution to this unnecessary problem that’s apparently too obvious for some brains, yet it’s guaranteed to work, brain or no – so long as you DO IT in time.
And here’s your no brainer: the moment you sense that you might be lower than ideal, at any point before late final, CLOSE SPOILERS! (That’s why they call it a no-brainer.) Say you let your airspeed – PITCH ATTITUDE – wander. Maybe you hit sink and didn’t feel it. Or too wide a pattern results in too long a flight path. Plus some other excuse. No matter. NOW is when to break the chain of errors. The worst thing you could do is chase your airspeed indicator while leaving spoilers out, but we see it all too often! Come on Goldilocks, just close spoilers, reset pitch attitude where you know you need it, and wait a few seconds to regain a healthy glide angle. Then reopen the spoilers as needed to resume a sensibly moderate descent. It really is that simple.
And one more thing. When you do open spoilers for real, quickly glance at one wing to confirm how far out they actually are, just so you’ll know. It’s very useful information that costs nothing to obtain, but does you no good unless you look.