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Wham! Help! Landings stink!

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New member
Nov 28, 2001
Does anyone have any advice on improving landings?? I'm just getting started in a Piper Cherokee, and I just can't seem to get my landings right. My problem is primarily on the level-off and flare. No matter what I try I always hit harder than I should. I know that it takes practice, and my instructor says I'm doing well, but I thought that maybe a few of you experienced pilots might have a tip or two. By the way, if anyone has a weather question, I'm a military forecaster and will answer them if I can. Thanks!
Of course different strategies work for different people, but here's what worked for me. When I used to instruct I had my students practice low approaches followed by flying one foot above the runway, applying the proper crosswind correction. Once they became comfortable flying at one foot, I tricked them by saying, "okay, this time instead of increasing power to 1900 rpm I want you to pulll the power to idle and STILL fly one foot above the runway." Next thing they knew they'd made a beautiful touchdown without even trying to land! That's the whole idea: fly the Cherokee one foot about the runway with constantly increasing back-pressure until viola, touchdown. In other words, you're mentally still flying, not landing.

If it makes you feel any better, it took me about 500 hours untill I could consistantly make passenger-approved landings. Passing a checkride doesn't require a soft touchdown; just meet the PTS and don't sweat the rest.

As you flare, transition your eyes from the point that you've been aiming at on the runway to the far end of the runway.
Try to make your attitude in your flare similar to what it looks like as you're climbing out on take off.

Good luck.
Don't worry about it. I've been slamming airplanes into the runway for more than 10 years, and still manage to keep my job...:D
Try this....after you've flared the aircraft and it's floating right above the runway, try NOT to land it. That's right...try not to by SLOWLY pulling back on the controls as you lose airspeed (this obviously only works if the throttle is at or near idle). The aircraft will gently touch down. It sounds simple but it really helped me back when I was first learning to fly. Be patient...it's just one of those things that comes along with time. Also remember that after hundreds of hours of flying time, most pilot's 'monkey skills' are about the same...it's your ability to make sound decisions that makes you a good pilot.
Hey dude,

All of these are good suggestions to help you - except the one about looking at the end of the runway in the flare - that will screw you up.

Try looking about 3 white lines down the runway at all times during the flare (assuming you are not on a grass field). Commonly, the problem associated with learning to land is firguring out where to look for the correct visual cues during the flare. I like the idea of leveling above the runway without touching down. Do your best not to let the plane touch the ground, when it decides to quit flying you will land. I have used that technique when I was flight instructing. Above all my friend, keep at it.....repitition is the key.

Good luck,
Not true Gump! As soon as you transition to the flare, you should move your eyes to look at the far end of the runway. Why is this? It's like driving a car and staring at the road just in front of your bumper, do you do this? No! You look out ahead and let your peripheral vision recognize the cues better!

There is something missing in this entire conversation, configuration and airspeed. If you come in at the speed of heat, this is going to make the transition to "stop flying" more difficult. Come in on speed and in the proper configuration, i.e. flap setting, whatever your aircraft requires. If you come in steep or drug in, guess what, that makes it all harder. The "good" landing starts with the "good" approach. Be on glidepath (VASI, PLASI, whatever), then make the transition and pull the power!! How many leave the power up in fear of "not flying"? You have to eventually stop this thing, pull the power when landing is assured.

My $.02! :)

"guitarflyer" and "hawgdriver" have some good pointers. I can still hear my instructor yelling at me (over our 172's engine - no headsets or intercoms) to transition my glance as I was in the flare. "hawgflyer" is right on about being in the proper landing configuration.

Make sure your final approach speed and configuration is exactly on and STABILIZED early on final and you have your airplane extremely well trimmed. I am sure that for your PA-28 your speed and configuration should be something like 63 knots and full flaps. Make sure you have your good 3-degree glidepath set up. Probably power should be something like 1500 rpm +/- 100 rpm. Get everything set up early. Maintain glidepath with coordinated power and pitch. Select your aimpoint within the first 1/3 of the runway. Then, at the point where the runway seems to be coming up to swallow you, start easing back on elevator slowly and break the glide. Do transition your glance to the end of the runway. As you flare, slowly reduce power to idle. Ease the elevator back and keep the airplane from touching down as you set up the proper nose-high attitude, which is the cowl touching the horizon (the ironic thing about making a good landing is to keep the airplane from "landing"). As you run out of elevator movement on the yoke, the airplane should settle down on the runway softly (yeah, I know, easy for me to say! :) )

Common errors include unstabilized approach and flaring too hard, which makes the airplane balloon.

Get your instructor to let you practice "landing" the airplane at altitude a few times. This is also good approach to landing stall recovery practice. The idea of just flying the airplane a foot or so over the runway is also worth trying.

Try to find this book: "Make Better Landings," by Alan Bramson, ISBN: 0711019525. Great book.

Finally, don't worry about it so much. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred hours of flying before one makes good landings consistently. My instructor always said to come back to him after accumulating 200 hours and he'd really teach me how to land.

Good luck with your training.

I wanted to add that there is plenty of great advice here. Take all of it in and you'll benefit.
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Landings huh?

Best way to a smooth landing is to only take credit for the good ones, and blame your f/o for the others. :)

I agree with above though, hold it off until it will not fly anymore. This theory changes with different aircraft types however. For example, the single commander is an aircraft that you do not want to flare, or pull the nose up, as it gets slower for landing. Flare that airplane and you have a tail strike, land it flat and enjoy the landing... it also helps with the trailing link gear.

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