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Old aviation sayings:

"Takeoffs are optional, landings are mandatory."

"A smooth landing is mostly luck; two in a row is all luck; three in a row is prevarication."

Excuse: "To try to remove blame from."

We all make excuses when our landing is not as flawless or unblemished as desired. That's just human nature. But, a less than perfect landing should cause us to analyze what occurred to upset the perfect balance that is required to make an arrival "like a butterfly with sore feet."

The best way to make consistently good (darn good, at that) landings involves basic attitude flying. Attitude flying is looking at the nose and wings of the airplane in relation to the horizon. Attitude flying is especially important if you fly different makes and models of airplanes.

The "perfect landing" involves two phases or sight patterns.

  1. Level flight attitude, and
  2. Landing Attitude (flare attitude or climb attitude). Using these sight patterns makes it easy to land the airplane.
To develop the sight pattern for level flight, when you are in cruise flight at cruise power setting, look at the nose in relation to the horizon. The horizon is probably about 2-4 inches above the nose. Start out by marking the windscreen about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the horizon.

Flying in the mountains may require that you use the base of the mountains about 6-8 miles from the airplane to represent the natural horizon.

Memorize this position, that is, how far the windscreen mark is above the horizon (or how far the horizon is above the cowling of the airplane).


Level Flight Attitude
(click to enlarge)

Next, learn the sight picture for climb attitude. We'll also call this the "flare attitude" or "landing attitude."

To develop the sight pattern, transition from level flight with cruise power setting to a climb at Vy (best rate-of-climb airspeed) using the cruise power setting.

The horizon will intersect the cowling below the windshield.

Memorize this position, that is, how far the windscreen mark is above the horizon (or how far the horizon is below the cowling).

Landing Attitude

Practice transitioning back and forth from level-flight attitude to landing attitude.

To ensure that you have these sight pictures mastered, it is helpful to cover the airspeed indicator, make the transition from level flight to landing attitude and then check the airspeed indicator for Vy.

Do this back and forth until you can transition to the landing attitude with the airspeed within 1 knot of Vy. Surprisingly this practice will take fewer than 10 minutes to perfect the "level attitude" and "landing attitude" sight pictures.

If you enter a downwind for the landing, when you are opposite the landing point on the runway, go through your pre-landing checklist. Transition to the normal landing approach airspeed and use flaps as usual.

As you approach about 15 feet above the runway, make the transition from your glide attitude to the level flight attitude.

If your attitude is less than level flight, the airplane will continue descending. If your attitude is higher on the horizon that level flight, the airplane will climb.

As the airplane begins to sink, slowly transition to the landing attitude. This is the only part of the landing that takes practice.

The transition must be made at a rate that arrests the descent, but doesn't cause a balloon. The object is to reach the landing attitude just as the wheels contact the runway.

Try this 2-step approach to landings. You might find that it simplifies the process of transitioning from an airborne vehicle to a ground vehicle.
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