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7 Answers

80 hour student still blowing landings

Asked by: 2011 views
Flight Instructor

I'm a student pilot who started out in a tailwheel (40 hours) and then transitioned to a Skyhawk (40 hours) now close to taking my checkride but... I haven't really mastered landing in the Skyhawk; good landings are more luck than skill. I think the problem is this: my tailwheel instructor taught me descend, round-out, and flare. My Skyhawk instructor insists there is no 'round-out' phase but only descend and flair. So my instincts are conflicting with what I hear him try to teach me... But aren't there 3 distinct phases in landing which are descent, roundout (break descent and briefly fly parallel to runway) and flare (raising nose while plane settles)?   I'd really like to get some advice about whether this a question of semantics or of technique. Thanks.

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7 Answers



  1. Chuck Gensler on Jan 19, 2013

    You are correct there are 3 distinct phases in landing which are descent, roundout (break descent and briefly fly parallel to runway) and flare (raising nose while plane settles)?

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  2. John D. Collins on Jan 19, 2013

    I do the landing as a sequence of pitch changes. I start out with a stabilized glide at my approach speed. When I need to start the round out, I will make only a portion of the round out to a shallower descent angle, but still down. I continue with one or more reductions in the descent rate to a near level condition a few feet above the runway. This incrementally slows the airplane and tends to eliminate a single movement that requires better judgement to avoid a balloon. Then I try and hold the airplane level, but eventually as the energy is reduced, the airplane will unavoidably start to sink. I use my peripheral vision to detect the sink and attempt to arrest it. By doing this I am always a little closer to the runway and my nose is a little higher. I repeat the “level-detect sink-arrest the sink” process until the main wheels prevent any further descent. This is called a landing. The nose should still be off the ground and if isn’t a gusty or cross wind situation, I hold the nose up as long as I can until gravity wins and the yoke is at the full rear stop.

    If you have difficulty in determining when the airplane is sinking with your peripheral vision, you can simulate the visual sensation by standing out on the ramp, then bend your knees and lower yourself so your head is a foot lower. The visual sensation is very easy to detect and once you recognize it on the ramp, it is an identical visual sensation in the airplane. You can make your initial level off anywhere up to 5 feet above the runway and still end up with a nice landing. Let me know how this works for you.

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  3. H. L. Mize on Jan 19, 2013

    I have found that usually a student who is having problems with the landings is not familiar and comfortable with the transition in the last couple of feet from approach to touchdown. To acciamate to this environment make a normal pattern and when in the last phase of the round out smoothly add power to about 1700 rpm (adjusted for weight and weather condtions) and fly down the runway at about a foot or two off of the runway with no intention of touching down. Obviously when at a safe distance from the departure end of the runway apply go around power and climb out. Do this several times or until you are comforable at being able to hold the airplane on the centerline and relatively level at about a foot or so above the runway. Then when ready, do the normal approach and if the power is not at idle when you start the round out slowly reduce it to idle and attempt to hold the plane level at a foot or so off of the runway until it no longer flies and will settle to the runway and as previously mentioned, hold the nose wheel off the runway until at a slow enough speed that you can control a smooth lowering of it to the runway.

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  4. Bill Trussell on Jan 20, 2013

    While I agree with Chuck and John in their assessments I would offer another “approach” to this issue. Try thinking of it this way:

    I have a certain amount of energy that I have been using and accumulating on approach to a runway that I must use or disipate during the landing phase of flight. If I do not use enough of it, I float for a while. If I use too much then it results in a hard landing. Use the right amount and continue to do so throughout the landing maneuver you will be rewarded with a picture perfect landing. Thinking of it needing to be three phases all the time might be overkill. Thinking of it as a continual process requiring your input at the appropriate times is easier.

    One final note, please be sure you are not concentrating on things going on inside but rather looking outside and evaluating what you see as John has indicated. Concentrating too much inside during landing rarely has a good outcome. Cover the airspeed indicator if you need to and trust what you feel through the controls.

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  5. Brian on Jan 22, 2013

    Abeam: Power 1400-1500 (depending on the day, experiment with which works for you). Airspeed 70. Flaps 10. TRIM for hands off flight!!!

    Base: Flaps 20 stabilize pitch with the yoke, leave the trim alone you’ll slow to 65.

    Final/Runway made: Flaps 30 stabilize pitch with the yoke, leave the trim and you’ll slow to 60.

    Over the fence/runway threshold do your three step process, easing out the power as you round out and removing it completely as you flare. You’re tail wheel guy is right and IMO if your new instructor is that adamant on you not rounding out then I’d be just as adamant about finding a new instructor.

    The above technique works very well in all 172 skyhawks I’ve flown, except older ones that have 40 degrees of flaps you’ll slow to 55. In the 40 degree flap 172, trim 75 for your first step, 30 flaps on final and 40 when the runway is made. Again you won’t need to touch trim after your initial set up abeam the numbers.

    Point for this technique is you spend minimal time dinking around with setting up the aircraft so you can put your brain power into what is most important. Just fly the darn thing.

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  6. charles on Jan 23, 2013

    Thanks guys, all good advice I intend to apply. Going to wait until this ice-age temperature passes

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  7. David Eberhardt on Jan 31, 2013

    It is a question of technique. It looks like most people here teach it the way you learned in the taildragger and it seems like you understood that and I assume you are comfortable with that. I reckon you found an instructor who learned it differently and now teaches it that way and cannot adjust his technique to your strengths. Your instructor is teaching a method that basically “hunts” for the runway. You have a good idea what you’re talking about – I’d consider finding a CFI that speaks your language, if you know what I mean.

    By the way, the technique of descent, roundout, and flare is the way the Air Force teaches landing a T-38 which was the primary trainer in UPT and fighter lead-in training for decades. I taught it that way when I was an IP (Instructor Pilot) in 38s and landed KC-135s much the same way.

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