5 Tips to Improve Your Landings

Taking off is optional but landings are mandatory! As you start your flight training, there are many things you do before actually learning how to land or even take-off in a small general aviation aircraft. As your training progresses, you begin to understand how the aircraft flies, along with its performance characteristics. However, landing the plane Is always one of the most difficult tasks to learn yet rewarding. With enough practice landings become natural. A pilot can land an aircraft but a better pilot can impress the passengers with a smooth landing. So here are a few tips to keep in mind when doing your next landing.

STABILIZED APPROACH

The key to a great landing begins with your approach. During this phase of the flight, there are a lot of things going on at the same time, that require a considerable amount of concentration and multi-tasking such as radio communications, configuring the aircraft for a landing, navigation and so on. For you to make a good landing, it is important that you become more familiar and comfortable with the things you are expected to do during an approach. This would allow you to easily stabilize your aircraft on a steady rate of descent and follow an optimal glide path. Having a visual aiming point on the runway is essential to flying a stabilized approach. Choose a point for your touchdown zone and adjust your aircraft’s speed and power to maintain this visual point at the same location on your windshield. This visual technique will help you fly a constant descent angle towards the runway

AIRSPEED IS CRUCIAL

As you become more comfortable with the procedures and things you need to do during an approach, flying a stabilized approach will be easier. However, to fly a great approach, the secret is your airspeed. Keeping the correct approach speed will make the transition from your approach to your flare a lot easier. During your approach, because of the nature of a landing where you have a lower airspeed, your controls are reversed. This means that power equals your rate of descent and pitch becomes your airspeed. Adjust your rate of descent by adding or reducing sufficient power and maintain your desired approach speed by controlling the aircraft’s pitch attitude. You can usually find the required approach speed for a given aircraft in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH). However, in the absence of this speed in a POH, a good rule-of-thumb to remember is that 1.3 x Vso would give you a suitable approach speed.

DON’T FORGET TO TRIM

With all things considered, during your final approach to landing, your elevator trim can be your best friend or an enemy. Proper trim of your aircraft cannot be stressed enough. As you begin to fly your final approach, you transition into a lower speed (the required approach speed). With that in mind, your aircraft will require more nose-up pressure to stay on your desired glide path. Adding gradual nose-up trim will not only help you maintain your glide path and final approach speed but also make the flaring maneuver a lot simpler. Remember, it is important that the aircraft touches down with the main gears first as it is better for the aircraft structure and prevents problems such as wheelbarrowing or a bounced landing.

MASTER YOUR FLARE

Learning to flare is like learning to ride a bicycle. At first it takes a lot of practice but once you know how to do it, it becomes second nature. The main problem that most students have with the flare maneuver is timing. A poorly timed flare is enough to ruin your landing. However, as previously mentioned, a good approach will make the flaring maneuver easier. In a general aviation training aircraft, as you start learning how to flare there are several visual cues to help you time your flare better. One method that is very effective is the ‘’runway expansion’’ cue. During your final approach to a runway, you will see that as you descend at a steady rate, the runway will visually grow bigger in width at a steady rate relative to your aircraft. However, as you get closer to the runway, the rate at which you visually see the runway grow will rapidly expand. This visual cue helps you time your flare better.

THINK FAST AND BE FLEXIBLE

Finally, like any other flight, a good pilot is a flexible pilot. When it comes to landing your skills for thinking fast and being flexible will be put the test. It is important to know what weather you are dealing with during your landing to help you better adjust and prepare the aircraft for a landing. Being able to think faster than the plane flies will not only improve your landings but also your decision-making abilities and flight safety. The slightest thing such as a gust can make an approach and landing more challenging. Being adaptable and flexible will help you mitigate any problems that could arise during an approach. Every landing is going to be different and so it is emphasized that flexibility will help you learn more and become a better and safer pilot. Practice makes perfect, so keep learning and keep flying!

Happy landings!

Useful links

http://www.howitflies.com/Cessna-172-The-Landing-Pattern-That-Will-Lead-a-Good-Touchdown

http://www.boldmethod.com/learn-to-fly/maneuvers/short-field-landing/