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VFR Glidepath/Glideslope

Asked by: 2229 views General Aviation, Private Pilot

I am a Private Pilot with several hundred hours flying, but I seem to be getting worse at judging the correct glidepath to get me to my target touchdown point.  (no ILS or Vasis to help)  I have read lots of advise, tried to "see" the aim point moving up/down the windshield, runway perspective changing etc.  All this seems to work in the last 100ft or so but not higher.   I am flying a Cessna 150 and a Champ almost exclusively at uncontrolled fields.   Any help would be appreciated.  Joe.

1 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Aug 25, 2014

    Other than “practice, practice,” there are a few things you can do, depending on why you are having the problem.

    The goal of the “normal” traffic pattern is to have a relatively stable descent rate at relatively stable target airspeeds from abeam the touchdown point all the way to the threshold. When I teach landings to a new student, my focus is on visualizing the path from abeam the touchdown point to the runway.While aim point motion is not inconsequential, as you already found it doesn’t really help that much if, by the time you roll out on final, the path is already messed up a bit.

    Couple of specific items that might help:

    1. Airspeed. Your airspeed should to be within PTS tolerance of that nice 1.3 Vs0 target. A lot of people simply fly the pattern too fast. That leaves you with too much energy to dissipate on final. Not helpful.

    2. Descent rate. Usually taught in connection with instrument approaches, an instructor of mine taught me this one for VFR landings 20 years ago. A 3° glide path is produced by a descent rate equal to your ground speed X 5 (or X 10/2 if you prefer). That means if you do your approach at 60, your optimal descent rate will be 300 fpm. Of course, GS is subject to wind so we’re not talking absolutes, but it will get you into the ballpark so much easier than hunting and pecking. And if you choose a different descent rate, it’s easier to modify something you have than something your don’t.

    3. Visualization. I started by saying the goal is to visualize the path from abeam the touchdown point to the threshold and then fly it. It’s easier than it sounds. After all, you can throw a ball to someone without calculating how strong and high to make the throw. Your experience from early childhood gives you an almost superhuman ability to see the path the ball must take and throw it. (Doesn’t sound too foo-foo in that context 🙂 ). That is your real goal. To allow yourself to see the path in the big picture sense. For a lot of folks, it’s really hard to see that path from abeam the numbers. But since I use the technique when teaching emergency landings as well, I’ve noticed that most people can “see” the path to touchdown from the base leg and tell if they are high or low.

    I’m sure others will chime in with their favorite techniques. Pick what seems helpful, bearing in mind that the best solution may well be a session with an instructor – usually a different one who brings fresh eyes to your situation.

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