Landing a Husky: No! Bad dog!

The AOPA 2012 “Tougher than a Tornado” Husky is usually obedient and well mannered – but sometimes it strays.

Within two feet of the ground on landing, it can become willful and ornery, usually resulting in a firm touchdown and/or bounced landing. A rolled up newspaper won’t change this dog’s behavior, and neither will a pocket full of dog treats.

But the Tornado Husky (and all other Huskies) is certainly capable of smooth and consistent wheel- and three-point landings as long as pilots know the tricks: Precise airspeed control on final, full nose-up trim, and power above idle for elevator effectiveness.

This unconventional combination is necessary because of the Husky’s unusual elevator trim system. Turning the trim wheel moves the entire elevator (and not just a trim tab). The elevator travel is the same regardless of the trim position, but unless you’re Paul Bunyan, you won’t have the arm strength to command full up elevator in the landing flare if you’re working against the heavy spring in the trim system.

And even if the pilot does succeed in getting the stick to the full aft position during the flare, that’s not enough to ensure a soft, three-point landing – especially if the Husky’s center of gravity is at the forward end of the normal range (such as when the pilot is flying solo). The airplane simply runs out of elevator authority. In order to raise the nose to the required 10-degree deck angle, the airplane needs more airflow over the tail. And the only way to get it at normal speed is from the propeller. Crack the throttle about a quarter inch (roughly the same position you place it for engine start) and you’re in the ballpark.

Flap position also influences the character of Husky landings.

They can be set at zero, one, two, or three notches – and adding flaps increases the nose-down pitching moment. I prefer two notches for full-stall landings and three notches for wheel landings – but the method for both is almost identical.

Fly 65 mph ias on short final with full nose-up trim and the throttle a quarter-inch open; round out in ground effect and work the stick aft. With two notches of flaps (or less), full back stick results in a three-point touchdown. With three notches of flaps, I tend to run out of elevator before reaching the full-stall angle of attack. When the main wheels touch, relax the back pressure on the stick to pin them on and fly the tail to the ground as the airplane decelerates. Once the tailwheel touches, apply full aft stick.

Slowing to 60 mph ias on final, or even 55, works well for short-field landings. But it also requires significantly more power on final to avoid an excessive sink rate. (I use 500 fpm on final as a target.)

The same techniques apply for crosswind landings. The Husky POH lists a maximum demonstrated crosswind component of 15 miles an hour – and that number seems conservative. The airplane has an authoritative rudder and ailerons, and keeping it tracking straight with the upwind wing held down is easily doable in such winds. (YouTube has many examples of Huskies landing in much stronger crosswinds.)

Flying final approach with full nose-up trim sometimes requires slight forward pressure on the stick, and that feels awkward. (It also requires that the pilot be ready to apply brisk forward pressure in case of a go-around.)

But the exaggerated trim position gets the elevator right where it should be in the landing flare – and that (along with power) is the key to consistently smooth Husky landings.


  • James Robins

    Or you can buy a Citabria, which is beautifully coordinated, roomier and lands like a lamb !

    • Bob Goubitz

      Where have you been, over?

  • Mike

    Dave, you should have added in what the winds were. I don’t think anyone in a Citrabria or most other aircraft would have challenged mother nature that day.

  • John “bumper” Morgan

    Many experienced Husky pilots agree (see that numbers in the POH for approach speed are conservatively too high. Depending on loading, stall is 38 mph indicated power on and about 41 mph power off with full flaps, so 55 or less is good for short final. Also, most of us shoot for a “tail low” touch down, almost a 3-point, then stick forward to bring the tail up. This means minimal energy and good visability forward for avoiding logs and rocks while operatiing off field. Raising the tail also transfers weight to the mains to allow for optimal braking for those really short landing spots. Dumping the flaps after touch down also helps with braking if needed.

    • Bob Goubitz

      Landing tail low is good, 3 point even better. Raising the tail after touchdown: recipe for disaster as you were going too fast to begin with and large elevator deflections are needed to get it to that point at such low speed and is easily overdone and at the same time directional control is potentially lost. IMHO bad advise. J3 to C46, been there.

  • Nils Pearson

    This is similar to the way I land a C-180. With a 3 pint landing, elevator trim full aft will allow a clean and full stall. The tail will remain on the ground. With a wheel landing, neutral trim works fine with any flap setting after an “almost full flare”. Once the wheels touch, just relax the back pressure. Apply additional forward pressure if needed for positive control (ie. cross winds).

    • Dennis

      Isn’t it unwise to attempt a three-pint landing unless it’s on a bar stool (even that might be a bit dicey)? 😉

      • John J.

        I regret not being the first to attack the “Three Pint” joke. Though, there are some amazing flight simulator drinking games.

  • Chris McClure

    The technique described in the article works best for the Husky. Bumper’s comments are also correct. I have over 1100 landings in my Husky A1-B, in all sorts of wind conditions, including a few at double the 15mph demonstrated crosswind and I am still learning, because as with any airplane, every landing situation is slightly different. Winds, loading, temperature and actual and density altitude and runway conditions will all vary a bit with each landing, and there are an almost infinite combination of those variables. In any aircraft it also sometimes takes more than one try when the crosswinds are gusty, or squirrelly due to terrain, but one of the beauties of flying the Husky with its power to weight ratio, is that recovery from a botched landing is pretty easy – especially with full flaps, full power will result in an almost immediate takeoff, unless one is so slow that they are taxiing (it is possible to groundloop any tailwheel aircraft even while taxiing if the pilot gets complacent). Particularly with one-way-in short airstrips with no go-around, it is imperative that the pilot be highly proficient in order to get it on the first try. By the way, I have a bit of time in a Citabria, but I still prefer the Husky. If whoever wins the “Tougher than a Tornado” Husky takes the time and effort to become proficient, they will really enjoy flying it!

  • Chris Kirk

    I have to also say that the technique described here is pretty well spot on. I had to laugh when in the book about flying the Husky where they say NOT to do wheel landings in a Husky! HA!!!
    I will add one thing… Old school instructors(and I am one) have always taught to stay away from the brakes when landing.To only use them as a last resort. If you are waiting to use them until it is a last ditch effort the airplane is already half way around in a ground loop. This is WRONG. The best method is to act as if you do not have a steerable tail wheel and to just before you run out of rudder authority start to use the brakes judiciously to main directional control. By this there is NO delay as in trying to steer a tail wheel and you will nip a potential situation RIGHT NOW!!
    Some say you can cause an airplane to go over…BULL!! If the pilot is PROPERLY trained in the judicial use of brakes then he/she will not have any problems and will be applying the brakes before the panic situation arises.
    Another rebuttal is what if the brake fails? Well, if that brake fails then 99.9% of the time that pilot took off KNOWING that they had a weak brake and chose to risk it. A friend took his C-185 over to the Bahama Islands knowing one brake was weak and after needing that brake on landing and over $100,000.00 later he will never do that again. I can only say this… until your skills get really good if you have a weak brake do one of two things…fix it or park it!!