View Full Version : Relaxing while learning how to land

07-06-2013, 08:12 PM
Hello everyone,

I am just in the beginning stages of learning to fly.
I've just had the first couple of lessons on landings. I have gotten better with my set up and approach, but the round out, flair, and touchdown need work. My CFI says I need to find a way to relax while I am trying to land the plane. I am way too tense. Does anyone have suggestions?

Tom Charpentier
07-07-2013, 01:07 PM
I wouldn't worry too much about being nervous at this stage in the game (how's that for advice?). Landing an airplane was a pretty foreign experience for most of us when we were first starting out. I would try to identify one problem at a time to focus on as you try to "dial in" your technique. If you're flaring too high work on getting the right sight picture for starting the roundout/flare. Then if you're having issues staying on centerline work on that. Or vice-versa. Just remember that your instructor's right there with you, so you can't screw it up too badly. So relax and work on changing the things you're doing wrong one at a time. With more time will come more comfort.

Also, if landings are frustrating you too much, ask your CFI if you can take a break and do some different airwork for a lesson or two. It may help keep your confidence up (it did for me after a rough patch of landing lessons).

07-07-2013, 08:03 PM

I know exactly what you are going through. I went through the same thing. In my first week of training (I was at it full-time), I was doing pattern work with my instructor and it wore me out. I was drenched in sweat. But then something funny happened. I took a break and when I got back to flying, I just started relaxing. I can't say when, exactly, it happened but it did happen. My grip on the controls got lighter, I stopped thinking about the control inputs and just started doing them. The only thing I can say is that it will come with practice.

Tom's advice is golden. In my case, I took a few weeks off for a job search starting the day after that tough session. That helped me tremendously. When I got back to training (with a job offer and start date in hand, that helped!), I was a different person. My instructor got me back to doing other things (maneuvers, slow flight, etc.) before going back to landings. I think it gave me time to integrate what I had been learning. Landings then became much less stressful, I was still learning and making mistakes, but I wasn't anywhere as stressed. I soloed a few days later.

Lately I've been telling my non-flying friends that landing an airplane is the most focused thing I have ever done in my life. Even being a Jeopardy contestant last year was less intense. After all, screwing up on Jeopardy (I didn't by the way) is only embarrassing, not life threatening. It's no wonder that it takes time to learn how to do it. Try to relax and enjoy the experience.

07-11-2013, 09:02 PM
Over the years, I've published the following in several different forums. It is the way I taught landings, and the way I taught people who were having trouble landing. Believe me, it works.

How to land an airplane. Sometimes I think, “stop me if I’ve told you this before”, because I’ve written so many times about how to land—or how to solve landing problems. But here we go again. If you and I were to ride together, this is how I’d tell you to do it.

First, you need to have good control of your approach speed. Your approach speed on final should be 1.3 Vso—and Vso means the stall speed in the landing configuration. So if on this landing you’re using full flaps, and on the next one you use only 10 degrees, then adjust your approach speed accordingly. Since you don’t have any power to work with, that means adjusting the pitch. That also means that if you are following the approach speed recommendations in a late model POH, you need to use the slowest recommended approach speed. If the POH says 60-70 knots, use 60, for instance. But why not use the Vso and calculate from there?

Here you’re asking, why not a faster speed than 1.3 Vso? Simple—your landings will be better if you use 1.3 Vso. Trust me—it’s true.

You’re also wondering why we’re not talking about the whole pattern. Well, if you slow down on downwind and more on base so that you’re at 1.3 Vso on final, or if you enter the pattern on base and slow down so that you’re at 1.3 Vso on final, or if you do a straight-in approach so that you’re at 1.3 Vso on final, it really doesn’t matter. What is important is that you’re at 1.3 Vso on final.

Next, you need to know the sight picture for the flare. Here’s how to determine what it should be. On a normal take off, you raise the nose when the airplane is ready to fly. Memorize that, because that’s the sight picture you’ll want when you flare to land, not higher, not lower, but that same sight picture.

So now we’ll divide your landings into 3 parts: approach, leveling off, and landing flare.

So you’re on final approach, using whatever flaps you want to use for this landing, and you’re using 1.3 Vso. Trim for that speed!!!!! Trimming for the approach is as important as trimming for other aspects of flying. If you don’t trim properly, you are an interested passenger, not a pilot. No excuses—you must trim!

When you get within 10-15 feet of the runway surface, level off. Don’t raise the nose, level it, just like when you were flying in the pattern on downwind. Then wait. Don’t get anxious to do anything else—wait!

Meanwhile, look toward the end of the runway—it makes it easier than if you look closer to the airplane.

Soon the airplane will start to settle naturally, because without any power added, that’s what it does. When it starts to settle, raise the nose to that same sight picture that you had on take off. The airplane will slow more, continue to settle, and voila!, you’ll touch down!

You’re not finished. Continue to hold the nose up by gradually pulling the yoke/stick back as the airplane slows, and then gently lower it to the runway. Maintain directional control with the rudder pedals, and let the airplane slow, maybe with a little braking. But don’t get anxious to do much of anything else, because this is landing, not touch and goes, not “how quickly can I get the flaps up”, or how soon I can take off the carburetor heat.

As you become more proficient, you’ll meld the 3 steps into a continuous sort of action, but until then, consciously dividing it into 3 parts will make your landings so much better. Now go land!


07-13-2013, 01:32 PM
Thank you Tom, Bunkie, and Cary for you great advice!
I will be trying it out very soon.

Bill Greenwood
07-16-2013, 02:28 PM
What kind of airplane are you training in?

Cary had some good advice. If you come in at he right speed, no more than 1.3 VSo at the runway threshold, that is half the task done. This is often easy if the wind is calm and a bit harder if there is a wind blowing especially over obstacles. If you are too fast as most of the student errors that I see are, then you have more energy to dissapate in the flare, and this takes more touch or feel. If you are in a 172, you want to have the speed no less than the target speed, let us say 60 knots just as a guess and no more than 5knots fast. Some CFIs teach with partial flaps, but full is better normally. If you are fast and balloon when you flare, You can just softly continue to flare again. You may ease off the back pressure, but you should NOT PUSH forward on the stick or yoke and dive nose low at the runway. If you are too slow, then the flare disapates the speed quickly and the plane tends to drop. You need to make the flare quicker so that the nose is up when the plane touches. If you touch down nose high, tail low on the mains, a plane can handle a fairly firm arrival just fine. Either way if a bigger correction is needed for ballooning or dropping in you can use a touch of power.
It is nice to have a long smooth, progressive flare from about 10 feet agl resulting in a perfect 10 touchdown, But that is not critical, if you rate landings, 9 & 10 are great, but an 8 is safe and probably a 7 is too. Perfection is the art but not critical.
If you can, as Cary says, gently start that flare at around 10 feet, it can be a smooth progressive action. But I don't agree that you should become static just when the nose hits the landing attitude, instead as the speed bleeds off the last few knots, continue to add back pressure to hold the nose up and the wheels off a long as you can until the speed is gone.

And learn to do go arounds, be very practiced, disciplined, and proficient in them and don't hesitate to use them when needed.
Years ago, I was checked out in a high performance plane, which I wanted to bring to Oshkosh. But my instructor was lost on July 5 and I was left with about 20 hours in type and 500 overall. Three weeks later, I did as many go arounds as I did landings on my way up to EAA, and it all worked out.

David Pavlich
07-17-2013, 09:34 AM
Hey Cary...that's terrific! You need to do a Youtube video with narration. This is the best analysis I've read on landing since I've started my self-taught ground school. I've printed it out! :thumbsup:


07-20-2013, 12:37 AM
Can you suggest any good you tube video?

07-27-2013, 06:22 PM
I am training in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. (1969) My instructor had me doing go arounds before we started working on landings. I did OK with those.
I'm using 40 degrees of flaps and coming in a 1.3 vso most of the time. I've had a few more lessons since my original post. I've gotten better over all, but I still need to get some consistency. I'll be doing one more landing lesson, if I don't get the results I need we will be taking Tom Charpentier's advice and work on something else for a few lessons.
I've put some of Tom's, Cary's,and Bunkie's advice to good use already.

I did come in for one landing over an obstical last week. It did cause me to have a bit too much speed on the flair, causing ballooning. I still have to learn to just hold off and wait at that point and not panic causing the nose low attitude you are talking about. My instructor is trying to get me to hold the nose up and wheels off until the speed is all gone. I had a couple of good landings like that last week. Probably a 7 and an 8, the others were maybe a 6 and one 5 both cleaned up by my instructor. Then there were a couple of go arounds. Not good enough yet to pass the lesson.
What was the plane you took to Oshkosh?

Thanks for the advice Bill! If the weather cooperates I'll be trying it out tomorrow.

08-02-2013, 10:17 PM
Cary, I learned the "1.3 Vso" rule when I started flying 33 years ago and have used it ever since. Your suggestion of the "sight picture" is right on too. I remember my instructor having me roll down the runway time after time with the nose wheel up just to get used to the landing attitude and steering in that condition. It was a lot of fun and it worked great. It sure helped in the transition to tail wheel landings too!