Letter to the Editor - Private Pilot - May 1988
The Other Way to Fly Like a Bush Pilot
I enjoyed Dan Downie's bush flying article in the February issue [Private Pilot, February 1988], particularly because it put flesh and bones on a Mexican whom I had previously perceived only as a generic embodiment of bush pilots as a group.
I first learned of the Mexican bush pilot technique for short field landings several years ago from my mentor on such matters, Morgan Huntington, inventor of the Lift Reserve Indicator (LRI). As Huntington explained, those old-time bush pilots were performing the minimum-thrust-for-level-flight exercise as a means of identifying the airspeed at which the aerodynamic state known as L/Dmax occurred under the particular circumstances prevailing at that precise time. Thus, they were providing themselves with the practical, safe airspeed reference by which to fly the approach, flare and landing. Theoretically, of course, that reference speed for L/Dmax changed with every ensuing second before touchdown (for one thing, fuel was being burned, decreasing the weight of the airplane), but, for the practical purpose at hand, the change was insignificant.
What Downie neglected to mention was that today, exercise of the Mexican bush pilot technique is unnecessary - if you have one of Huntington's LRIs installed in your panel. This instrument displays aerodynamic state continuously and dynamically for all flyable circumstances of density altitude, airplane weight, center of gravity, and configuration of the lifting surfaces. This instrument is calibrated at L/Dmax; the pilot can achieve this aerodynamic state any time in flight merely by flying with the LRI indicator at the three o'clock position (the red-white junction on the dial). Flying with the needle a few degrees clockwise into the white sector will provide the pilot with that exact safe approach airspeed that Mexican bush pilot Francisco Munoz found necessary to determine empirically. Munoz is the kind of pilot who would have appreciated the LRI had it been invented in his day.