It is said that any pilot is as good as his last landing. Landing an airplane on a runway is a complex process of maneuvering and control entries that tests every student pilot to the limit. Even after the flight training is completed, a pilot will still aspire to make good landings – this is the one key part of flight where success can be definitely measured – either by smooth and effortless touchdown … or by something completely different.
When landing an airplane, a multitude of things must be done at the same time. And since your landing will also depend on outside factors (wind speed, direction, air temperature, etc.), even the tallest pilot has limited control over the landing process. No one makes a perfect landing every time, but with the following landing tips, you can give yourself the best chance to impress your passengers, yourself, and maybe even the tower operators:
Take a strong approach – A good landing always starts with a good approach. On your downwind leg, be already at the model’s altitude. Already at the right speed. Check your heading indicator and make sure your plane is flying parallel to the runway heading. Doing these things ahead of time will allow you to really focus on your base and final stages – falling behind on these tasks will cause you to “ catch up ” to the entire landing process.
Focus – Flying with friends is always fun, but when it’s time to land a plane, the pilot should focus 100% of their attention on the landing process. Too often a conversation will continue all the way to the runway and the landing will always suffer. After calling your tailwind, politely silence your passengers so that you can give your full attention to your altitude, speed, and position without any further distractions.
Stay center – Learning to fly on a wide track, staying on the center line may not seem so important to you. However, by visiting smaller fields, you will learn that sometimes staying in the center of the trail is the only choice you have. After turning the base to the final, quickly line up. Focus on having the nose of the plane pointing down that midline, using small aileron and rudder movements to prevent drift. When your touchdown hits, that’s one less axis (yaw) you’ll have to worry about, allowing you to focus on the other two.
Using shutters correctly – Landing a plane correctly requires landing in the right place at the right speed. Getting to this position and speed is the hardest part, but luckily for you, you have some friends to help you out: the flaps. Make sure, however, that you are using your flaps correctly, and not just automatically flipping them at a specific point or point in your landing sequence. Learning to land requires drilling through the pattern with constant repetition, and it’s all too easy to just categorize the flaps on the back of your mental checklist as something “to do” on your base and your last legs. The truth is that a pilot should use the flaps of an airplane in different configurations during different scenarios depending on wind speed, wind direction, altitude, airspeed and length. from the runway you land on. Setting your flaps too early will lead to a high approach, with overcorrection by nose-down the runway. Setting them late can keep your speed abnormally high. Don’t feel like you have to use all of the flap notches all the time either – in some situations it’s best to land with partial flaps or even (in very windy conditions) without flaps at all.
Experience is the best teacher here, and it will take some flight time in this particular aircraft to get used to optimal flap use. Realize that this is not something that can be learned strictly from a textbook.
Use track numbers – When landing an airplane, the expression “aim for the numbers” is commonly heard, but pilots rarely manage to land on them. Most riders are too busy looking at speed and pitch to worry about the position of the digits, especially on longer tracks with lots of room. However, you can use the runway numbers to help you reach your desired touchdown point if you spend time observing them during your final approach. As you approach your touchdown, you should have a good idea whether you are high, low, or just on target. So high, aiming for a place somewhere before the numbers can help you lower the altitude a bit. If it’s weak, look a little further at the numbers to lift your nose. Adjust the throttle as needed to get the nose to do what you need. It might seem like an obvious little trick, but if used while landing it can help you a lot with your touchdown position.
Slide – A maneuver often mentioned in the manual of any student pilot would be skidding. When landing, a skid can be used to evacuate unwanted altitude without increasing speed or having to dive down the runway. By applying the opposite rudder and aileron, the aircraft will glide into a vertical position without changing its direction of flight. If you are a student pilot, you will want to practice this maneuver a lot. It actually sounds trickier than it actually is. As you progress through your flight training, you will find yourself skidding during landings without even realizing it. Be comfortable with it, as it’s a good tip to have in your bag when you need to use it on a high final approach.
Attitude, speed, altitude – As you approach the runway, your concentration will shift to your main instruments. Speed is essential here, because you want to avoid stalling at all costs. Make sure to safely maintain above the minimum stall speeds for your plane’s flap configuration and also make sure you don’t go too fast. Adjust the nose of the plane to keep the speed needle where it should be, and use the power to correct your height above the runway. If you have monitored these three instruments during your base and final stages, you should be very close to your desired touchdown point when the aircraft lands.
Look down the track – Watching the runway when an airplane lands is another great tip for getting your flare timing right – it gives you a better reference to the actual horizon than watching the ground rushing below you. It does take a bit of practice, but you can eventually keep your balance by keeping your eye on the horizon, while peripherally monitoring your height above the track. As you do this, your hands will make subconscious adjustments to the control wheel that should smooth out your descent path.
Flare, Float and Throttle – Knowing when to shoot is half the battle. Knowing how well to flare is the other half. Perform these two control movements and your wheels will grease the track. During your flare, make gentle, controlled movements with the wheel or yoke. You are now very close to the ground, and any large or jerky movement will be amplified with disastrous results. Once you’ve done a push, you need to know immediately if you’re up or down. Low flare can be corrected by gently applying more back pressure on the control wheel. High rounding can be corrected by maintaining control pressure and applying light power with the throttle. Never drop your nose suddenly or dramatically when landing an airplane … if you flare too high it is best to take out the “ float ” and apply power as needed to smooth touchdown. A good pilot always keeps one hand on the accelerator when landing.
It’s not over yet – The last mistake made by some pilots is to think that their landing is done when their wheels touch the surface of the runway. To avoid this classification, remember to control the entire length of your landing. The rudder is the key, as it now controls just about everything. Make your little rudder adjustments – especially right after touchdown when the plane is still moving pretty fast. Also remember to turn your ailerons to adjust the wind direction, to avoid being rocked by cross winds. Your landing is not complete until you take the taxiway.
Landing a plane isn’t easy … but landing a plane smoothly and correctly is even more difficult. Just like you have good days and bad days, you will always have good landings and bad landings. Still, arming yourself with the right knowledge and best practices can help you make good hits. Using the tips above, you won’t land perfectly every time, but you should constantly see yourself making better landings.