How does a plane land

That way, you land better

For passengers, the landing is the part of the flight after which they evaluate the pilot. And rightly so: the return to solid ground is also recognizable as a particular problem area in the accident statistics. Here are our tips for better landings:

Tip 1: stability is key

The rule is very simple: the turn on the final approach should be completed about 500 feet above the airfield. In 300 feet at the latest, everything has to fit: flight direction, rate of descent, speed, power, configuration (i.e. flaps and landing gear). At most, minor corrections of five knots, 100 feet per minute or ten degrees would be allowed. If, on the other hand, more extreme maneuvers are required to reach the slope, there is only one answer: Go ahead! What is not embarrassing, but nice: You can fly five minutes longer.

Tip 2: Be careful with the energy

In everything we say here, the manual takes precedence, of course. Against this background: Failed landings often result from the fact that the flight is approached too quickly. Way too fast. Unless the manual says otherwise, the final approach is at the latest "over the fence" (actually a nonsensical classification - there is often no such thing or it is always somewhere else), that is, at 50 feet above the airfield, 1.3 times the stall speed in landing configuration (Vs0) the correct speed. Adding another 5 knots does not increase security - on the contrary. More importantly, the manual and on the airspeed indicator indicate the maximum flight or landing weight. Often times they will be lighter, which will lower the stall speed. And with the square root of the weight change: If the aircraft weighs only 1000 instead of the manual maximum of 1250 kilos, that's 80 percent - the approach speed drops to 89 percent (the square root of 0.8 is 0.89) of the manual value. Fly a maximum of 5 knots faster - and never slower. Otherwise you bring too much energy with you. From a height of 50 feet, the speed is then continuously slowed and at the same time the intercepting arc is initiated until the ready-to-land indicator sounds just before touching down. It is better known as the stall warning. So you get to the bottom with minimal energy.

Tip 3: watch out for the last corner

Turning into the final approach is tough: Again and again pilots pull over their aircraft and crash. Very important: Do not force the aircraft “around the corner” - too much aileron or rudder leads to uncoordinated flight, which is dangerous when turning. If you have turned in too late, you should at best correct gently back onto the runway centerline - or you can take off. Steep turns are also not recommended: Since you have already slowed down, a bank angle of 30 degrees is the greatest feeling. How much space the curve needs can be calculated: at 70 knots and a 30 degree bank angle, there is a curve radius of 250 meters. Wind from behind or in front also pushes you in a direction that influences the curve.

Tip 4: Pay attention to the trimmings

When turning into the final approach, you should not only look to the seat, but also in the other direction: Is there another coming? In addition - as with every change of direction in the traffic area - a radio position report is due.

Tip 5: Don't be afraid of the wind from the front

A steady, non-gusty wind is - contrary to what is often taught in Germany - no reason to increase the approach speed. If, on the other hand, there are gusts, you should approach it faster by half the gust factor, i.e. by the difference between the steady wind and the maximum gust. Example: The announcement reads "Wind 12 knots, gusts up to 20 knots". Then the gust factor is 8 knots, you fly 4 knots faster. So you have a reserve when the wind changes.

Tip 6: Don't be afraid of cross winds

Even if the “right” method is always hotly debated: Here is our approach. On the final approach you first fly with a lead angle that keeps you on the extended orbit axis. From there you switch to the side glide (slip) in the direction of the wind, in which the longitudinal axis of the aircraft runs parallel to the axis of the orbit (you need this for landing) and the surface hanging in the wind ensures that you do not drift out of the axis of the orbit. When this change takes place is also a practice question. Some pilots do it just before touchdown, others at 50 feet above the threshold or even earlier. Important: If you cannot keep the track axis despite full rudder deflections, look for another runway - because then the crosswind limit of the aircraft has been reached. Often, however, the wind decreases significantly near the ground. So don't give up too early (but not too late either). And yes: if there is a corresponding crosswind, you will touch down on a wheel - the one on the windward side. Then the other follows.

Tip 7: don't stop too early

Even when you touch down, the “flying” is not over yet. There are many ways in which you can damage an aircraft before you slow it down to walking pace. Stay focused. Lower the nose wheel gently and in a controlled manner - only when it no longer wants to stay in the air. Since you are set up at stall speed, you usually have to use less braking. Carefully check the taxiing direction and do not turn onto the taxiway until you have reached walking pace.

Tip 8: make your decision in good time

Again: for every failed landing approach there is a way out - the go-around. Choose this option in good time and without hesitation. Set your performance, watch out for propeller effects and a possible breakaway, carefully control the speed and retract the flaps gradually and not too early according to the instructions in the manual.

Text: Thomas Borchert aviator magazine

Thomas Borchert

Thomas Borchert started gliding in Uetersen in 1983. This was followed by a motor sailor license and finally the PPL in the USA, which was then rewritten in Germany. In 2006 the instrument flight rating was added. The graduate physicist, born in 1962, came to flier magazine from stern at the beginning of 2009. He currently flies mainly Cirrus SR22T charter planes, preferably on longer trips and also in the USA.

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