The Flare and Landing
Last time the training article began a discussion on landing, in particular we investigated the difference between a greaser and a firmer, positive landing. I proposed that a firmer landing was preferable and explained why. This time, I look at the actual flare and landing in more detail.
The flare and landing is largely a judgement exercise which is improved through repetition – hence flying many circuits allow a pilot to repeatedly practise these skills. Before moving onto the basic landing techniques however, a sidenote for instructors – a good demonstration of a technically correct landing is worth your weight in gold. A competent instructor should, no, must demonstrate the landing, possibly more than once – enabling the student to gain an overall feel for the flare and landing without having to concentrate too much on a single aspect or technique.
There are some specific aspects of the landing during a demo landing I will ask the student to take notice of. To form a correct mental picture of the flare, both the point at which the flare is initiated and the final attitude the aircraft adopts at the completion of the flare, are emphasised. Depending upon the student, I may ask them to follow me through lightly on the controls in order to gain a tactile assessment of the amount and rate of control column movement. From this the student has a start and end point to replicate on their attempts. If my demo is not good enough – I’ll say so, explain why, and demo another.
The flare and landing can be broken down into a number of distinct sections and, whilst it is a judgement exercise, it can be initially flown quite mechanically. These sections are: the point of flare initiation, the final attitude adopted and the power reduction and development of the flare as the aircraft slows, resulting in touchdown. Remember – we are not after greasers but firm, positive landings. Read last month’s article to find out why.
Flare initiation is initiated on visual cues from outside – for a given aircraft for example, when on the correct finals glide path and aspect, it may be the numbers passing under the nose. At this point look ahead to approximately the end of the runway and judge the point of flare through the runway’s aspect change. Another cue may be the ground rush in your peripheral vision. Don’t continue to look at your aim point here – otherwise you will flare late and too much. Where to stop the flare? You are aiming for an attitude (the ‘flare attitude’) which in many aircraft approximates the downwind attitude. A good way to demonstrate this attitude is before takeoff, stop the aircraft at the end of the runway and imagine being a few feet higher – what does the attitude look like? This is approximately what you are aiming for as the final attitude in the flare. Once achieved, hold it. Continue looking down the end of the runway and reduce the power smoothly and positively. The important bit here is the development of the flare; raising the nose as the power comes off and the aeroplane slows. This is needed as the speed reduces in order the control the rate of descent. Look out the front and hold your attitude picture by increasing back pressure and hence movement of the control column. Key words used by your instructor should be along the lines of “flare…check…hold…power…develop.” Then, nose wheel on, control direction with rudder and bring the aircraft to a stop.
If things don’t go exactly to plan, don’t panic. A high flare can be controlled through slower power reduction coupled with slower development of the attitude. Fly the aircraft onto the runway. Importantly, in a high flare do not chop the power quickly. Remember that you should always have the option of going around if things get too far out of shape. Initial actions in a go-around should involve holding the flare attitude and applying take-off power – as the aircraft responds and begins to accelerate, raise the nose to the climb attitude and climb away.
As always each aeroplane is different. Cues for initiation of the flare, the amount of attitude change required, the rate and timing of the power reduction will all vary. This is where the initial demos by your instructor are absolutely crucial. If you don’t get a demo – demand one – your landings will be all the better for it. Have fun!