In the flying game, there’s nothing judged more than the landing. Sure, you may have single handedly put out the engine fire, organised an emergency diversion, flown the approach to minima one engine out no comms, but the slight bounce and squeal of the tyres means your passenger’s comment to the news cameras will only be about “the crash landing”.
Most pilots think the landing starts at the flare, but let’s go back a bit to the beginning of the Final leg. No wait – let’s go back to the Pre-Start checks. Consistency in landings means that all variables are countered for. As such, ensure that your seating position allows full and free movement of the flight controls (including rudder), and that your height allows a suitable viewpoint – the same for every flight. You need to be able to judge your attitude accurately in order to fly accurately. Memorise the seat adjustment settings, and if you need a cushion, then always use that same cushion.
Now, back to Final Leg. For consistency, you want to fly the same glide slope, at the same speed and configuration, down the centreline, every time. So you do what you have to do when on Downwind or Base leg, in order to get your aircraft at 500 feet AGL in that state, probably around a mile from the threshold. It’s very helpful if there’s a distinct object on the ground that you can aim to fly over – (an immovable bright red barn would be better than a small moveable goat). Do all the usual things (including Trim, Lookout, Radio and Checks), and continually assess your Aimpoint, Aspect and Airspeed as you slide down the slope.
Fix each of the AAA workcycle as frequently as possible. Take another glance at the Windsock do that you can better assess any Crosswind or Turbulence effects. And Trim. Consider going around. What? Already? Yes, you should be prepared to go around at any point in the circuit, especially on final leg, and maybe even after the wheels touch. When the time comes that you need to climb away, then you won’t need to think about the steps – you’ve already thought about it. Besides – how hard is it really? Increase the power (normally full power in trainers), balance with rudder, raise and hold the nose just above the horizon to the climb attitude, and safely raise the flaps in increments. And Trim.
Consider a personal list of when you will Go Around. For example: Runway not vacated by 200 feet Airspeed falls below Threshold Speed Airspeed more than 10kts too fast Stall Warning Crosswind outside limits New emergency (other than engine issues) Too high Too low Any other reason you feel unhappy Hopefully your approach will see you regularly ‘appear’ above the threshold at the same energy state (height and speed) most times, and the aircraft will behave similarly to your control inputs to begin the flare and arrest the descent, whilst using your feet to point the nose down the centreline. At some point you will reduce the power, and the aircraft continues the lose speed, and the controls get heavier and you need to pull back a little harder to slowly raise the nose.
Problem is, you won’t be able to see the runway very well, so you tend to look just to the side of the engine cowling. It’s a strange picture, but you have no options, and you will soon get used to it. On a normal landing you aren’t trying to hit the ground, but fly slower with the nose higher, just a few inches above the ground. (A similar technique in a nosewheel aircraft, and a Tailwheel aircraft).
This means your main wheels will contact first in a low energy state, with your attitude similar to that of a climb. The process of flaring and the hold off is quite similar to stalling an aircraft (albeit from an inch or so above the runway!) – which is why we learn to deliberately stall aircraft out in the training area before flying lessons on landing. This means your nose wheel will never impact first. It’s got to come down sometime though, so relax the back pressure a little and it will soon fall – giving you better rudder control.
What if I flare too high, or bounce? Initially, Go Around! Simultaneously apply full power, raise the nose and balance with rudder. If required, retract the flaps in stages – This should all be instinctual to protect yourself from over speeding the aircraft, whilst constantly keeping a good lookout and situational awareness should an Engine Failure after Take-off occur.
When your experience increases you can learn how to correct for these errors with some flying lessons and massage it down (provided you have enough runway!) – but powering up and flying away is almost always a safer option. The natural reaction is to push the nose back down – but this is dangerous at low altitude and low speed, and is likely to lead to a very hard nose first impact. Generally – just go around. This is why the Military train with Flight Helmets from day one!
Consistency is key, so nail those speeds and heights, think wind, trim, and try not to hit the runway…
Did you find Jorgo’s tips helpful? If so, why not check out Kens top tips for how to make the perfect landing too!