Learning how to land an airplane is often seen as the hardest part of pilot training by students. And it is tough. It really requires a lot of mental recources to perform the first landings.
Therefore you will find some (hopefully) useful tips below to master landings!
A step-by-step guide
1. Focus on the approach
A stable approach is key to a good landing. That means that your descent is neither too shallow nor too steep. Try to fly a 3° descent like being on an ILS-glideslope (for those pilots who know IFR terms).
A good rule of thumb is to multiply your groundspeed by 5 to receive a rate-of-descent in ft/min. For example:
- IAS = 80 kts / GS = 75 kts -> 75 x 5 = 375 ft/min
- So if you can manage to set your ROD (rate-of-descent) to approx. 400 ft/min you’ll fly nearly a 3° descent path.
Also try to stay ahead your aircraft during the approach phase. If you are dropping back: fly slower (of course well above stall-speed).
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2. Know your speed on final
Your speed on final is the so called VREF (refernce speed). It is roughly calculated by VS0 (stall speed in landing configuration) x 1.3. This speed is the reference landing speed. It depends on the aircraft’s weight – since the stall speed depends on weight.
Now you only need to add your wind increment. But how is it calculated? Very easy: main wind component / 2 + full add for gusts. For example:
- RWY: 36R
- METAR (wind only): 36012G20KT
- -> wind increment = 12 / 2 = 6 + 8 (20 – 12) = 14 kts
We also know our final approach speed now.
3. Keep an eye on your aiming point
We need to know where we want to land….to land behind that point. Sounds strange? It isn’t. Let me briefly explain what is meant:
Your aiming point is an imaginary point on the runway (on paved runways there is a marking) where your flight-path will intersect the ground. But as you will have to perform a flare your touch-down-point will be a little bit behind that imaginary point.
A good hint for non-paved runways is to imagine the aiming point a little bit after the threshold.
4. Stay calm for the flare
That’s where good (meaning regular) pratice will help you a lot. Flare means gently pulling the elevator back and increasing the angle-of-attack to ensure a landing on the main gear without initiating a climb – puuhh!
The biggest difficulty here is not to ‘over-control’ the aircraft and risk a nose gear landing. A good trick is, to pull the elevator back stepwise – cm by cm. Pull the controls back a little – observe – either wait or continue pulling back the elevator a little bit more. Keep it slow.
A good rule of thumb for small general aviation aircraft is to start the flare at approx. 10 ft – estimating the real altitude is training.
Always keep in mind:
It is better to perform a good go-around then a bad landing! And it’s never too later for a go-around.
5. Sorry, you’re not finished yet
Keep in mind, that a landing does not end with touchdown of the main landing gear. Some have the tendency to release the controls immeiately after they feel ground contact. Please remember:
A landing is finished after you have vacated the active runway!
Landing is indeed a complex task, and might seem difficult in the beginning. But focusing on above few things may help you mastering also this part of flying.
Nevertheless, good and regular training is absolutely important. Stay trained, stay safe!
Happy Landings :)!
PS: Please feel free to comment below and let me know your best tips & tricks to perform a perfect landing.