Regardless of your flying experience, or even if you’re still training, there’s a certain skill to landing which can be the holy grail for pilots.
It can be just as common for a pilot with hundreds of hours in their log book as for a trainee pilot to experience the frustration of bouncing, ballooning, bashing or the struggles of that dreaded crosswind when landing.
Below is 5 tips that any pilot can use to add a little finesse and improve on your landings…
1. Finals, check speed
A key to any good landing is a good, stable approach which that leads to it.
This means having the aircraft correctly set up and stabilised back on your base leg and final approach, so that you’re not flustered to get the aircraft under control as you reach the runway.
One of the key factors in this is nailing your airspeed on final approach. Nail the correct speed and be patient and your aircraft will gently bring its self to the runway.
It can be tempting to race in to save time (and expense!), or because another aircraft is approaching behind you. Yet, avoiding this temptation and focusing on your own aircraft and landing to make sure you hit the appropriate approach speed, reducing it correctly as you pass over the keys and enter the flare, will lead to a much smoother landing without the likelihood of rising over the runway.
2. Eyes on the prize
We all look for the touchdown point but start by followed the above steps. Once you’ve found the touchdown point and are stable, move your eyes to the end of the runway. It can seem counterintuitive to be looking away from the intended point of touchdown, but this one can really help add finesse to your landings.
When approaching, look to the end of the runway and keep your eyes there as you enter the flare. It will give you a greater sense of your height above the ground. This will help you to touch down much smoother.
3. Don’t Flare Too Early
This one catches a lot of pilots out and can happen quite often, particularly if you’re caught out by the aircraft feeling like it is approaching the ground too fast where your natural instinct is to pull back and arrest the descent. However, this will often lead you into flaring too early, at too great a height above the runway. This form of ballooning also happens if you flare with too much speed, leaving the aircraft feeling like it wants to climb rather than settle onto the runway.
So, go against instincts and try to judge better when to flare for landing, leaving it to a closer point to the runway. Remember points 1 and 2
4. Hold that Flare
Once you do flare, if you are a little fast or high, or if the runway is fairly short, it can be tempting to try and help the wheels down on to the ground by releasing the back pressure and allowing the aircraft to drop as you feel for the runway.
My instructor told me this was something I did whilst training for my licence. I was used to the great length of Brize Norton’s runway that when I went elsewhere my instinct was to get her down quicker. I did eventually break the instinct using the above steps for confidence. However, the smoothest landings occur when you can hold the flare as long as it takes. Keep the back pressure until the wheels kiss the ground.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice the landing
Bumpy landings are a natural part of life for any pilot, whether experienced or new. Many factors, most notably the wind conditions, can hamper the best efforts of many, we just have to accept it. But becoming good at landings and adding finesse definitely comes with practice.
I often find that when I fly a lot in a short period of time, my landings are much better/smoother. After a few consecutive trips I have a good feel of how the aircraft behaves when approaching touchdown. So grab some circuit time and practice adding finesse to your landings next time you have an aircraft to fly. I do enjoy getting some circuit time in on returning to my home airfield. Every flight is a learning flight in some way.