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4 Answers

Full or partial flaps?

Asked by: 2135 views
Aerodynamics, Aircraft Systems, General Aviation, Private Pilot

When performing a normal landing, do you prefer to use the full flap range of the aircraft, or a partial flap setting? Assuming the standard 30 degree flap CE-172, what flap setting would you use? I know the aircraft is certified for, and fully capable of, landings at any flap setting, but I'm interested in what your personal preference is and the reasoning behind it. Also, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the use of partial flap settings in gusting winds. -Thanks!

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4 Answers



  1. John D Collins on Jun 15, 2015

    In my Bonanza, the flap switch has three positions. 1) Move up; 2) Move down; and 3) Turn off motor. This allows for any setting between zero and 30 degrees of flaps. I use full flaps for most landings. I don’t use intermediate flap positions. If I don’t use full flaps, I use no flaps. Later models have a detent and offer three positions, up approach flaps, down. I don’t object to pilot’s using the approach flap setting, but I rarely use it. I subscribe to the KISS flying method. On an instrument approach, I never use flaps until the landing is assured. It saves one more step needed to clean up the airplane in the event of a missed approach.

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  2. Mark Kolber on Jun 15, 2015

    Sticking with the 172, my preference has varied. For a long time (but no longer) I preferred the intermediate 20° setting unless conditions warranted more.

    I’m not a fan of the 40° setting in the older 172 models. And I’m not a fan of no-flap landings for no reason other than I don’t like the runway sight picture; I find it to be too nose-up to get the speed right on approach.

    Of course, that’s preference under normal conditions and one must know how to land with every flap configuration.

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  3. KiwiInstructor on Jun 19, 2015

    Depends on the situation.
    Xwind or gusty reduced 15/20degs carrying a little extra speed say 5kts/10kts,
    to allow for lost speed in wind lulls and ensures cleaner air to your tailfeathers (rudder and elevator) to maintain directional control and authority.
    Of course this means nothing if your crosswind technique is rusty in the first place.

    Other than that on a normal day and definitely at unfamiliar runways full flap, remember what it does for you it increases visibility in the flare by lowering required the “flare attitude” , Allows for a steeper approach (good obstacle clearance) and it decreases stall speed both very good things when flying low and slow!

    The over ruling factor being if you have made a poor approach and only have 15deg of flap out and your low you wouldn’t take the next 15deg it’ll only steepen your descent!
    Besides a good pilot always goes around and good landings come from good approaches!

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  4. Joe Platt on Jun 20, 2015

    The two C172 POHs on my bookshelf (N and R models ) both say: “Normal landing approaches can be made …….. with any flap setting desired”. They go on to recommend “full” flaps for a short field and “minimum required” for a “strong” crosswind.

    What I take from this is that they are saying “Use whatever it takes to get the job done”. Making that judgement is surely the subject for an entire chapter in any flight training manual.

    For what it’s worth, flying a 172, I normally use 20 flap for a regular American runway (paved and 3,000′ long) (it makes the both the flare and the Go Around easier) and adjust as circumstances dictate.

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