As the adage says, what goes up must come down and in aviation, landing is a phase of flight which can give pilots both pride and embarrassment. Landing an airplane requires precise control of speed and descent and it is essential to fly a good approach in order to land smoothly and safely. When I was learning to fly, landing an airplane was not something which came naturally to me and there were several walks of shame from the aircraft back to the flying school. However, by the time I was ready to fly my first solo, I was greasing those wheels on the tarmac like a pro. If you are finding it difficult to do smooth landings, don’t worry too much. You won’t break the undercarriage and all pilots have to go through the same struggle. However, soon you will be wondering why on earth it was so hard to master it in the first place.
As crosswind landings warrant an entire post, I will leave them out until another day. I learnt in a Cessna 172, so all speeds and flap setting apply to this aircraft type.
As I mentioned before, a good landing follows a good approach. It’s important to have the aircraft flying at the correct speed on final, and this means reducing the speed on the downwind and base legs.
Before turning from downwind to base, reduce power to 1500rpm, hold the nose level and allow the speed to drop to 75 KIAS. Apply 10 degrees of flap. When the threshold of the runway is about 45 degrees behind you, turn onto the base leg.
While on base, apply 20 degrees of flap and get your speed down to 70 KIAS. You should aim to be turning onto final at 500 ft AGL.
Once on final, apply 30 degrees of flap and keep speed at 65 KIAS. Control the descent using power. Aim for a spot on the runway just forward of the threshold (piano keys) and keep that spot in the same position in your cockpit window. If the spot is moving downwards, you are too high and will overshoot your aiming point, so reduce power. If the spot is moving upwards, you will undershoot, so apply a little power.
Once over the threshold it is time to flare. When to do this takes good judgement and a lot of practice. Flare too high, and the aircraft will drop onto the runway and bounce. Flaring too low is called crashing into the runway!
The main objective for a short field landing is to clear any obstacles in the approach path and land in the minimum distance possible.
In order to clear obstacles in the approach path calls for a steeper angle of descent which means a lower approach speed and use of full flap. Once clear of any obstacles, power should be reduced to idle. Touch down and flare should be as close to the threshold as possible, retracting flaps and applying full brakes when safe to do so.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s post. Please feel free to comment if you have anything relevant to say. Please do not spam as you will be wasting your time.