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10 Tips For Landing Like a Pro

Below are some basic tips that can help newer and more experienced pilots alike to learn to land the airplane like a pro! If you enjoy the tips, try applying them to your next flight lesson.



1. SEAT POSITION


This may seem like a like a strange tip for learning to land like a pro. However, it is very important that newer pilots adjust their seat position appropriately and that they consistently use these same seat settings.


If a pilot consistently has differing seat settings, he/she will have a very difficult time learning the sight picture of a Stabilized Approach on Final (discussed more below) and the sight picture for the Roundout, Flare, and Touchdown. It is imperative that a pilot knows his/her distance above the ground when performing the flare and touchdown. If not, they will have a tendency to either begin the Roundout and Flare too early or too late resulting in rough landings and/or porposing.


If the seat position remains constant for each flight lesson, the student will be able to judge their height above the ground and perform smooth touchdowns.


2. DISTANCE OF DOWNWIND LEG


Similar to proper seating adjustment, pilot's should keep the Downwind Leg of the Traffic Pattern a consistent distance from the Runway. This allows the pilot to understand the proper sight picture for turning from the Downwind to Base Leg of the Traffic Pattern.


The Downwind Leg should be flown approximately 1/2 to 1 mile from the landing runway. Remember, you are not flying a jet! There is no need to fly a 2 mile downwind. Not only is it unnecessary but will most likely lead to losing too much altitude on the Base Leg (since it will be much longer) and ending up too low on Final.


3. SELECTING YOUR LANDING POINT


While on the Downwind Leg you will want to select your desired Touchdown Point. This point should be within the Touchdown Zone of the Runway. Select a point that is easy to identify and keep in sight as you transition from the Downwind to Base and Final Legs (i.e. the thousand foot markers, the third stripe after the numbers, etc).


Once you are abeam this point, you will want to reduce your power, configure your aircraft for landing, and begin a Stabilized Descent out of the Traffic Pattern Altitude.


4. TURNING ONTO THE BASE LEG


Once you are 45 degrees past your desired Touchdown Point you will want to begin your descending turn onto the Base Leg. During this turn be sure to maintain your Stabilized Approach descent and airspeed. Students often have a tendency to increase both the descent and approach airspeed when turning. Hence, make a conscious effort to avoid this mistake.


Once you are on the Base Leg, you will complete additional landing checklist items (such as the GUMP) checklist if necessary and called for by your aircraft's AFM/POH.


5. TURNING ONTO FINAL


While on the Base Leg, the pilot should keep an eye on the desired Touchdown Point and time their turn to Final accordingly. At first this may be difficult to judge. However, we suggest favoring an undershoot to Final rather than an overshoot. When pilots (especially new pilots) overshoot the turn to Final, they tend to correct their mistake by heavily banking the aircraft and/or adding too much rudder to bring the nose around and get aligned with the runway.


These steep banks and increased rudder pressure close to the ground can create dangerous situations as the aircraft may begin approaching its stall speed. One of the most dangerous places to stall an aircraft is turning onto Final when the plane is close to the ground. It leaves little to no time or altitude for the pilot to recover.


6. ALIGNING THE AIRCRAFT WITH CENTERLINE


A stabilized approach (discussed next) is difficult to achieve if a pilot is unable to align the airplane with the Runway Centerline and keep the aircraft flying straight. If a pilot is constantly turning left and right (adjusting for centerline) it will be difficult to establish a constant angle glidepath because the vertical component of lift will constantly be changing (as will the airspeed, most likely).


In order to properly align the airplane with the Runway Centerline, imagine the Centerline extending from the end of the Runway indefinitely. Then position the aircraft so that you (the pilot) are straddling this imaginary line. In other words, put it between your legs and keep it there. This will keep you aligned appropriately and greatly improve your accuracy. It will also help to stabilize your approach.


7. STABILIZED APPROACH CONCEPT


This is perhaps the most important aspect of mastering your landings. Now that we are on the Final Leg of the Traffic Pattern, we need to make sure that our airspeed, descent angle, and runway alignment remain constant (or nearly so). It will take adjustments, of course (we are flying in a dynamic environment), but those adjustments should be small and smooth. Large jerky movements will ruin our Stabilized Approach and make our landing much more difficult.


To keep the adjustments small: make smooth power input changes, make smooth left and right turns if necessary, and have the aircraft trimmed appropriately for your descent angle.


8. AIRSPEED CONTROL


Proper Airspeed Control is paramount for both the Stabilized Approach and Roundout and Flare portions of the landing sequence. If a pilot's airspeed is too fast, he or she will "float" when they transition into Ground Effect and begin the roundout and flare. This is because the increased airspeed is creating too much lift to allow the airplane to touchdown appropriately.


If the airspeed is too slow, the pilot could stall the airplane. This would obviously be a very bad thing while still on Final, but it will also lead to a hard landing in the flare. Make sure your airspeed is within just a few knots of what is recommended in your aircraft's POH (Pilot Operating Handbook).


9. ROUNDOUT AND FLARE


The Roundout and Flare should be made just a few feet above the Runway. Rounding out too high will result in a rough landing and rounding out too late will result in bouncing and/or porposing.


Continue your descent angle until you are just a few feet above the runway, then begin the Roundout. Or, in other words, begin to raise the nose. We have found it is very helpful to raise the nose to a level pitch attitude (so you are maintaining a constant height above the runway) to bleed off any unnecessary airspeed. Once the airspeed has bled off, you will begin to sink toward the runway. Once that happens, gently raise the nose of the aircraft to smoothly land on the Main Landing Gear.


10. AFTER TOUCHDOWN


Remember, to keep flying the airplane even after making your smooth, successful landing. By this we mean, don't just let go of the controls. You still need to maintain positive control of the aircraft and keep it on the runway.


Use rudder pedals to maintain your straight projection and brakes to slow the aircraft and bring it to a safe speed for exiting the runway. Remember, you will need to position the ailerons appropriately to combat the effects of any crosswinds.


 

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