Your connection with the sky

Setting Yourself Up for a Great Landing!

by Chris Findley, CFI, CFII

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Learning to land is one of the greatest thrills in flying.  In fact, I think most pilots, even if they have been flying for years, still love the challenge of making a great landing.  It  is a common misconception (particularly among students) to think that the main thing we have concentrate on is the round-out and flare.   Certainly these are important, but a great landing really begins in the pattern, specifically on the downwind leg.

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In most trainers, when we are abeam our touchdown point, we reduce the power, add our first flap setting, and establish an appropriate descent.   Learning to establish this configuration enables us to arrive at the roundout and flare in a condition that allows for a great landing.

Many students are reluctant to allow the plane to descend on the downwind, therefore they are high on final approach.  Others stay much too fast and carry excess airspeed into the roundout.  They float and float down the runway waiting for the plane to settle.  Others make the opposite mistake –they are low and drag the plane in over the trees and plop it onto the threshold.

Landing is all about energy management –airspeed and altitude.  If we set up the airplane the same way every time we practice landings (winds/weather permitting) then we develop our skills at establishing a solid final approach which will lead us to a much better chance at that smooth landing.

I had one pilot I flew with who was very frustrated that his landings were all long –using up 2/3 of the runway.  After one trip around the pattern I saw that he was high in the pattern, didn’t use a consistent flap setting, and was trying to land 15 knots over the recommended approach speed.  That will make you land long every time.

After a few more trips around and a review of the recommended speeds, his landings were 100% better.

So don’t neglect the importance of flying a proper pattern.  It’s a great help in the quest for that perfect landing.

Fly On!


4 Responses to “Setting Yourself Up for a Great Landing!”

  1. This is just a rhetorical question. What if, by some coinscidence, the pilot and the co pilot are incapacitated. Would somebody with no skills be able to be coached into landing? I always wondered that.

    How do you get into flying without a university education? Do you have to find aviation vacancies first or do you have to do training? It's something I've thought a lot about lately.

  2. Daniel,

    There are instances where a passenger has been coached to land. Rare, but it has happened.

    You do not have have a degree in Aviation to become a pilot. If you're looking at professional airline work, it is certainly recommended. But just to become a pilot and even fly for hire as an instructor or in some other work, no a degree is not needed. You just have to go to your local airport and start taking lessons and see where you want to go!

    You might want to check out:


  3. Sensible breakdown of the pattern. I instructed part time for a few years and remember well how erratic my own first patterns were as a student. For myself, breaking it down like that was an immense help.
    In the end, nothing for it but practice, practice, practice. I've about 950 hours on license now and still find circuits a lot of fun, a chance to refine your skills further.

  4. A good friend and I made the decision to vacation to Italy in excess of Thanksgiving.

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