by Jonathan M. Stern
Once established on final approach, extend the flaps to 30° and slow the airspeed to 70 or 75 knots. Adjust pitch attitude as necessary to maintain the desired glide path to the touchdown point. The goal is to arrive at the runway with just enough airspeed to flare for landing and make a smooth touchdown.
Excess airspeed, as one would have if the approach angle were very steep, causes the airplane to float some distance down the runway. Where, as here, power is variable and available, pitch should be used for altitude control and power for airspeed. Nonetheless, coordination of the two is always necessary because of their aerodynamic relationship. The final approach involves a complex orchestration of many aerodynamic factors (pitch, power, flap setting, airspeed, and wind).
If it appears that the airplane has dropped below an appropriate glide path, an increase in pitch (raising the nose) must be combined with an increase in power. If only the pitch is raised, the airplane will settle and touch down short of the touchdown target. If the airplane is too high, the nose should be lowered and the power reduced so that speed does not increase above the target airspeed.
Full flaps should not be selected until you are confident that you could glide to the runway if the engine failed. The rate and angle of descent should constantly be reevaluated and adjusted so that the airplane will arrive over the touchdown zone several feet above the runway. Power should be adjusted as necessary to maintain target speeds.
Moreover, the flap setting targets are only recommendations for a normal approach. They should not be mechanically applied. For example, if the airplane is on a long final approach and appears to be low or slow, application of additional flaps should be delayed. It is inappropriate to retract flaps to correct for being low on the approach, because the retraction of the flaps will cause a sudden sinking of the airplane. A bad approach leads to a bad landing. If the approach looks bad, fly around the pattern and try again.
As the airplane reaches the touchdown zone, adjust the pitch in a smooth, continuous motion to change from the approach attitude to the touchdown attitude. If power has not already been reduced to idle, it should be at this point. Without the flare, the airplane flies into the runway nose wheel first—not a particularly good idea for impressing your passengers or outside observers. Increase the pitch attitude at a rate that allows the airplane to gently settle to the runway while the excess speed (the speed above stall speed) bleeds off (see Figure 6.5).Figure 6.5. During the flare, airspeed bleeds off while the pitch attitude is raised to the proper touchdown attitude.
The rate of pitch change during the flare is also a complex symphony of aerodynamic factors. If the flare is begun high, the rate of pitch change is less than if it is begun low. If the descent rate is high, the flare must be initiated earlier and may require a greater rate of pitch change.
Ideally, the airplane's descent rate at touchdown is at or less than 10 feet per minute. The airplane should initially contact the runway in a nose-high, tail-low attitude (see Figure 6.6).Figure 6.6. This approach shows a good flare attitude just prior to touchdown.
After the main wheels contact the runway, aft pressure on the control yoke should be maintained or increased to keep the nose wheel off the ground until the airplane decelerates and to take advantage of aerodynamic braking, which comes from the drag created by the high angle of attack. As the airplane slows, relax the back pressure on the control yoke to allow the nose wheel to lower to the runway surface. Directional control during the landing roll out is maintained with the rudder pedals, which provide rudder control before the nose wheel touches the runway and nose wheel steering combined with rudder control after the nose wheel is down. Apply the brakes as necessary to bring the airplane to a stop or to slow it to the pace of a walk before making a turn off of the runway.
For additional instruction and practice on landings, select "Lesson 10—Final Approach, Flare, and Touchdown" from the Options/Flight Instruction menu (Basic Category).