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14 Ways Your Landing Can Go Bad

Most pilots are judged by their passengers on what they remember most: the landing. If you want to make a perfect landing, avoid these 14 mistakes.

1) Overshooting Final

We've all been there. Maybe it's because you have a tailwind on base. Or maybe it's because you just misjudged your turn. Either way, you find yourself blasting through the extended centerline of the runway.

2) Chasing The Power

You should only be making small power adjustments once you're on final approach. If you're chasing the power with large changes, you probably aren't stabilized. It might be time to go-around and try again.


3) Low On Final

Maybe you put flaps in too early, turned base late, or didn't add enough power. Correct your low approach by adding power to get back on a good glidepath to the runway.


4) High On Final

Reducing power, adding full flaps and performing a forward slip are easy ways to increase your descent rate without increasing airspeed.


5) Slow On Final

Getting slow on final usually puts you on the backside of the power curve, getting closer and closer to stall speed. At slower speeds, controls will begin to feel mushy and you might have a hard time maintaining positive control of the airplane. Avoid flying too slow on final, especially in strong crosswinds or on gusty days. You should always fly your manufacturer's recommended airspeed on final, but if they don't provide one, the FAA recommends you fly final at 1.3 X Vso.


6) Fast On Final

If you only land on long runways, you might not realize how much of an impact coming in too fast has on your landing performance. Make sure you nail that final approach speed if you want to flare without floating and touchdown at the spot you chose.


7) High Flare

You probably remember the times you've flared too high above the runway. Just when you thought your wheels were about to touch, the stall horn continued to go off as your plane dropped a few feet towards the runway. One embarrassingly hard landing later, you wondered what went wrong.

Commonly caused by visual illusions like a wider than normal runway, flaring too high above the runway is usually a fixable situation. Stop increasing your flare pitch and let the airplane re-settle to the ground by maintaining a constant attitude. Add some power if necessary. If you're too high and can't fix the flare, go around.

8) Late Flare

Flaring too late also leads to hard landings. If you're landing on a narrower than usual runway, be prepared for this illusion. If the airplane bounces back into the air after a rough touchdown, consider going around.

9) Floating

Excessive airspeed on flare leads to floating. Caused in large part by ground effect and wingtip vortices, you've probably had quite a few landings with a little too much float. When floating, gradually adjust pitch to settle the airplane down as airspeed bleeds off. Before you land, pick a go-around point somewhere down the runway. If you're not on the ground and braking before that point, go around.

10) Ballooning

Misjudging your sink rate is a leading cause for ballooning on landing; they're often caused by premature flaring. As the airplane begins climbing away from the runway, airspeed begins to dissipate, sometimes putting the airplane near a stalled condition. Use throttle to reduce your sink rate for a soft landing or go-around.

11) Porpoising

A porpoise landing is a bounced landing that, if not recovered, results in your plane touching down nose first. If you let it continue, it will set your plane off into a series of "jumps" and "dives", like a real porpoise. Porpoise landings can happen when you are flying too fast during touchdown, or if you have too high of a descent rate at touchdown.

Immediately executing a go-around is the safest thing to do. Because porpoise oscillations occur so rapidly, flight control inputs to correct the oscillations are difficult, if not impossible to accomplish.

12) Wheelbarrowing

Pushing the elevator control forward on a landing with excess airspeed could lead to wheelbarrowing. It's a mistake students make when they try to get the nosewheel on the ground before beginning braking. With weight concentrated on the nosewheel, it's easy to lose directional control or incite a prop strike.

13) Hydroplaning

Landing on a runway with standing water, snow, or slush can lead to hydroplaning. You'll have little controllability or braking action during severe hydroplaning events. Read more about the 3 Types of Hydroplaning.

14) Drifting Or Crabbing On Touchdown

As you begin your round out and flare, your plane slows down, which also means your flight controls are less effective. Because your flight controls are less effective, you need to add more rudder to keep your nose aligned with the runway, and at the same time add more aileron to keep yourself from drifting off the centerline.

Want better landings? Sign up for our Mastering Takeoffs and Landings course. You'll learn tips and techniques to immediately improve your liftoffs and touchdowns, and just about everything in between.

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