SOFT FIELD APPROACH AND LANDING

Soft Field Approach and Landing Lesson by wifiCFI


Objective

To determine that the applicant exhibits satisfactory knowledge, risk management, and skills associated with a soft-field approach and landing with emphasis on proper use and coordination of flight controls.

Knowledge

The applicant demonstrates understanding of: 

A stabilized approach, to include energy management concepts. 

Effects of atmospheric conditions, including wind, on approach and landing performance. 

Wind correction techniques on approach and landing. 

Risk Management

The applicant demonstrates the ability to identify, assess and mitigate risks, encompassing: 

Selection of runway based on pilot capability, aircraft performance and limitations, available distance, and wind. 

Effects of: 

Crosswind, to include exceeding maximum demonstrated crosswind component 

Wind shear

Tailwind

Wake turbulence 

Runway surface/condition/length 

Abnormal operations, to include planning for: 

Rejected takeoff 

Engine failure in takeoff/climb phase of flight 

Collision hazards to include aircraft, terrain, obstacles, and wires. 

Low altitude maneuvering/stall/spin. 

Distractions, loss of situational awareness, and/or improper task management.

Soft-Field Approach and Landing (AFH C8)

Landing on fields that are rough or have soft surfaces, such as snow, sand, mud, or tall grass, require unique procedures. 

When landing on such surfaces, the objective is to touch down as smooth as possible and at the slowest possible landing speed. 

A pilot must control the airplane in a manner that the wings support the weight of the airplane as long as practical to minimize drag and stresses imposed on the landing gear by the rough or soft surface.

The approach for the soft-field landing is similar to the normal approach used for operating into long, firm landing areas. 

The major difference between the two is that during the softfield landing, the airplane is held 1 to 2 feet off the surface in ground effect as long as possible. 

This permits a more gradual dissipation of forward speed to allow the wheels to touch down gently at minimum speed. 

This technique minimizes the nose-over forces that suddenly affect the airplane at the moment of touchdown. 

Power is used throughout the level-off and touchdown to ensure touchdown at the slowest possible airspeed, and the airplane is flown onto the ground with the weight fully supported by the wings.

The use of flaps during soft-field landings aids in touching down at minimum speed and is recommended whenever practical.

Touchdown on a soft or rough field is made at the lowest possible airspeed with the airplane in a nose-high pitch attitude. 

In nose-wheel type airplanes, after the main wheels touch the surface, hold sufficient back-elevator pressure to keep the nose wheel off the surface. 

Using back-elevator pressure and engine power, the pilot can control the rate at which the weight of the airplane is transferred from the wings to the wheels.

Stabilized Approach Concept

A stabilized approach is one in which the pilot establishes and maintains a constant angle glide path towards a predetermined point on the landing runway. 

It is based on the pilot’s judgment of certain visual clues and depends on the maintenance of a constant final descent airspeed and configuration.

Private Pilot ACS Standards

Complete the appropriate checklist. 

Make radio calls as appropriate. 

Ensure the aircraft is aligned with the correct/assigned runway.

Scan the landing runway and adjoining area for traffic and obstructions.

Consider the wind conditions, landing surface, obstructions, and select a suitable touchdown point.

Establish the recommended approach and landing configuration and airspeed, and adjust pitch attitude and power as required to maintain a stabilized approach.

Maintain manufacturer’s recommended approach airspeed, or in its absence, not more than 1.3 VSO, +10/-5 knots, or as recommended for the aircraft type and gust velocity.

Maintain crosswind correction and directional control throughout the approach and landing.

Make smooth, timely, and correct control inputs during the round out and touchdown and, for tricycle gear airplanes, keep the nose wheel off the surface until loss of elevator effectiveness.

Touch down with minimum sink rate, no side drift, and with the airplane’s longitudinal axis aligned with the center of the runway.

Maintain elevator as recommended by manufacturer during rollout and exit the “soft” area at a speed that would preclude sinking into the surface.

Execute a timely go-around if the approach cannot be made within the tolerances specified above or for any other condition that may result in an unsafe approach or landing. 

Maintain proper position of the flight controls and sufficient speed to taxi on the soft surface.

Commercial Pilot ACS Standards

Complete the appropriate checklist. 

Make radio calls as appropriate. 

Ensure the aircraft is aligned with the correct/assigned runway.

Scan the landing runway and adjoining area for traffic and obstructions.

Consider the wind conditions, landing surface, obstructions, and select a suitable touchdown point.

Establish the recommended approach and landing configuration and airspeed, and adjust pitch attitude and power as required to maintain a stabilized approach.

Maintain manufacturer’s recommended approach airspeed, or in its absence, not more than 1.3 VSO, +/-5 knots, or as recommended for the aircraft type and gust velocity.

Maintain crosswind correction and directional control throughout the approach and landing.

Make smooth, timely, and correct control inputs during the round out and touchdown and, for tricycle gear airplanes, keep the nose wheel off the surface until loss of elevator effectiveness.

Touch down with minimum sink rate, no side drift, and with the airplane’s longitudinal axis aligned with the center of the runway.

Maintain elevator as recommended by manufacturer during rollout and exit the “soft” area at a speed that would preclude sinking into the surface.

Execute a timely go-around if the approach cannot be made within the tolerances specified above or for any other condition that may result in an unsafe approach or landing. 

Maintain proper position of the flight controls and sufficient speed to taxi on the soft surface.

Common Errors

Excessive descent rate on final approach 

Excessive airspeed on final approach 

Unstable approach 

Round out too high above the runway surface 

Poor power management during round out and touchdown 

Hard touchdown 

Inadequate control of the airplane weight transfer from wings to wheels after touchdown 

Allowing the nose wheel to “fall” to the runway after touchdown rather than controlling its descent.

FAA Sources Used for This Lesson

Private Pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Commercial Pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) Chapter 8

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