Learning to fly.
Lesson Thirteen; Landing.

Since we land on the same surfaces as we takeoff, landings have the same labels: Normal, Short Field, Soft Field, and Crosswind. The landing is guaranteed to give you trouble, indeed it gave me a lot of trouble when I learned!
Landing is a long lesson and so I'm splitting this up into three pages to cover the subject properly.

There I was...

Bouncing all over the place in a Tiger Moth (G ACDC) with Geoff Salt doing the best he could to teach me to land, we did half an hour of not making any progress at all, why was I so inept and yet I'd flown many hours in tailwheel aeroplanes?
The first time I flew the Tiger, Ian Senior said: "For someone who has never flown a Tiger before, you fly it remarkably well", that was because I had no preconceived ideas about the Tiger Moth. But after that I listened to all the experts in the club room... One of the favourites was (imagine upper crust English accent) "Oh yes, I look straight ahead and let the World fill my peripheral vision and land the aeroplane...", how the hell???
I spent a couple of hours trying all the expert ways... then I had a flash of inspiration over a cup of tea. The Tiger Moth has been flying since 1933, to have survived it cannot be that bad! I decided that I would ignore all the clubroom chat and do it my way. I'm going to stick my head out the left hand side, glance at the Airspeed Indicator and peg it precisely at 55 KIAS, and then I'll look well ahead and occasionally over the bottom wing's leading edge until I saw that we were at the correct hold off height and then I'd keep the aeroplane flying by looking at the venturi and slowly bringing it up to the horizon.
I went out again with Geoff Salt, and I did everything I'd imagined and d'you know what? My landings went from terrible to excellent.

Like most manoeuvres, landings are subjective. Landings involve a number of actions that result in a gentle touch down. These actions include: setting the aeroplane up at the correct speed on base, and trimming; proper control of the power; appropriate use of the flaps; flaring at the correct height, and then holding off until the correct landing attitude has been achieved.


In the Pilot's Operating Handbook the Normal Landing is written as follows:

1. Airspeed -- 60-70 KIAS (flaps up)
2. Wing flaps -- AS DESIRED (below 85KIAS)
3. Airspeed -- 55-65 KIAS (flaps DOWN)
4. Touchdown -- MAIN WHEELS FIRST

Most pilots will tell you that a good landing follows a good approach; I agree with this sentiment. A bad approach can be turned into a good landing by an experienced pilot, like your instructor, but this sort of approach increases the level of difficulty enormously for the student pilot. So let's set the aeroplane up for a consistent approach, consistency enables you to correct problems during subsequent attempts, inconsistency leads to different circumstances that require a whole variety of corrections.
Speed control is important so let's ensure that the aeroplane is trimmed for the approach speed while on the base leg. I usually reduce the speed to 65 KIAS at the end of the downwind leg, after my wingtip reaches the end of the runway. To do this I reduce power to 1700 RPM, apply Carb' heat, and maintain my height. When the speed reaches 65, trim, and it's time to turn base.
On base I determine whether I'm going to use flaps or not. Some instructors consider flap use to be complicated and prefer to teach flapless landings first, other instructors teach full flap landings from the start, I prefer to teach the sensible use of flaps as and when required. This time however we will use 20 degrees of flap, this gives us an excellent view of the approach path, and a nice short hold-off time. I like to get the landing over with, floating for long periods gives you much more time to make mistakes!
On base I reduce the power and apply the flaps, speed at 60 KIAS, and TRIM! Reduce the power in stages, 1700, 1500, 1200, and then closed; doing this will avoid cooling the engine too quickly on cold days and so extend its life.
The power reduction takes place on base as well as when we are established on finals, on these legs we are using judgement to ensure a steady approach path to the runway. On the final approach we are looking for the point of zero movement, this is the point on the runway that we will hit if we forget to flare, it should be near to where we wish to touch down. If this point moves upwards in the windscreen, we will undershoot it and so we add a little power, if this point moves down the windscreen we will overshoot it and so we will have to reduce the power. The aviators ideal is a power off glide to an aiming point on the ground, but in your initial training we are looking for a steady approach and so we'll use power to ensure a consistent approach angle is maintained.
Now the flare! this takes judgement and so you'll have to watch the instructor's demonstration very carefully. You'll look in about the 11 o'clock position to verify your height, and then you will look well ahead to ensure you maintain alignment with the runway as you hold off. Height judgement is subjective, everyone of us has to learn our own way of judging this, relating the view of the ground as we taxy out to being a few feet above it.
Do you remember slow flight? As the aeroplane slowed down we had to raise the nose to maintain our height. Here we are just inches above the runway and we try to maintain this height, so we have to raise the nose as the speed reduces, this is called holding off. We hold off until the nose reaches the climb attitude, and then we maintain this attitude until the wheels caress the ground.

When it goes wrong!

If you don't screw up you're not human... Instructors hate it when a student does it perfectly every time because they need to see that you can correct a bad landing or go around as the circumstances require.

The most common fault is flaring too high. If you flare far too high! Apply power and go around again. If you are a little too high, the cure is to apply some power maintain the attitude and allow the aeroplane to descend gently to the ground. Pay attention to what the ground looks like as the wheels touch down, and put this into your memory for the next effort.

Your instructor will react if you are going to flare too low, it's called self preservation!

Ballooning is the next fault. This is where the control column has been pulled back too quickly such that the aeroplane rises. If it's a low balloon, maintain your attitude until the aeroplane sinks to the hold-off height and then continue to ease it back until you achieve the climb attitude. If you balloon dramatically, apply power and go around.

If you flare too high or balloon and do nothing the aeroplane will bounce due to a high rate of descent to the ground... If you feel the seat falling out from below you, apply some power to cushion the touchdown, or full power and go around.

If you flare and then not hold off, all three wheels will hit the ground or worse you will land on the nosewheel. The nose leg is not as strong as the main undercarriage legs and so an elevator is fitted to protect it, use the elevator to hold off such that the mainwheels touch down gently, and the nose wheel is held off.

Be patient, it takes more than a few circuits to learn to do consistent good landings.

Next: Lesson 14, Short Field, and Soft Field landings.

Michael Peare 2002