Prior to earning my private license I was given the opportunity to fly a Cessna 210 (C-210).
A Cessna 210 is considered a “complex” aircraft by today’s standards and specific experience is required to fly one...at least to be covered by insurance.
In 1965 the rules must have been different or the owner of the C-210 didn’t have insurance. I don’t know which, but I was allowed to fly this particular C-210 even though I was only 16 and had learned to fly in a Cessna 172 (C-172) only a few weeks before.
The airplane was made available to me through an arrangement between my Dad, who was a professional pilot, and Harold Slama, the owner of the airplane. Mr Slama, the founder of the Cobia Boat Company, was a private pilot with a recent instrument rating and wanted my Dad to accompany him on business trips when inclement weather might be encountered.
Upgrading from the C-172 to the C-210 was pretty simple. I had to learn how to properly operate the constant speed propeller and learn the proper landing approach using power.
As it was common for student pilots to practice takeoffs and landings, called touch ‘n go’s, I’d often pull the C-210 out of the hangar at Herndon airport (currently named, Orlando Executive) and fly to Kissimmee to practice.
Kissimmee, Florida had a big, uncontrolled airport that wasn’t very busy in those days, so it was a perfect for training.
I was trained to land the C-210 using a power-on approach, so on each touch ‘n go I repeated the same procedure. Reduce power to slow cruise power setting on downwind and lower the landing gear. Hold nose up to reduce airspeed, then lower flaps 10 degrees. Turn base leg, add more flaps and continue to reduce airspeed. Turn final, add full flaps, hold nose up to attain final approach speed and adjust power as necessary to obtain and then maintain desired glide-path to the touchdown zone.
When I was only 10-15 feet high I would close the throttle, hold the nose to maintain a constant pitch attitude. The airplane would settle down to the runway as the speed bleed off to a nice soft touch down.
I became very proficient landing the C-210 using the power-on procedures so one day thought I’d try a power-off landing like I had learned during my training in the C-172.
This time on downwind I reduced power to begin slowing the airplane but I didn’t lower the gear because the additional drag would significantly deteriorate my glide distance. When I was directly abreast of the numbers, I pulled the throttle back to idle, held the nose up until I had the best power-off glide speed, then lowered flaps to 10 degrees. I waited a few seconds for the glide to get established then judged my rate of descent. I turned base leg when it appeared I would be able to make the runway with some additional altitude, just for a margin of error.
Once on final, I lowered the flaps to 20 degrees and judged the impact to my glide path. I was still a bit high, so I added full flaps and the resultant descent was perfect.
Holding my final approach speed, it was clear my glide path would take me just past the numbers.
Pleased with my first power-off approach, I held steady and slowly descended to the landing.
Unfortunately, I forgot my final approach checklist and therefore failed to lower the landing gear.
The landing was smooth, short, right on the centerline, but painfully loud.
Once the scraping started, it was too late to do anything but hold on and lament my mistake.
Believe it or not, I was still allowed to fly the C-210 after it was repaired...at least until the next incident. That story, next!
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