To a pilot, there is no greater feeling than making a perfect landing. Be it on a crystal clear day or on a windy cloudy mucky day, making that landing smooth and crisp makes any day better. Conversely, making rough landings can leave you and your ego feeling a little battered and humbled.
These tips for nailing your landing come from pilots of all stripes and they’re sure to help you walk away feeling good about your work as a pilot. Remember that it’s always good to get training from a certified flight instructor if you are unsure or feel uncomfortable with any aspect of your skillset.
1. Look Long and Wide
This was one of the first tips my first CFI told me as we were coming in to land. You don’t want to look at where you are but you want to focus on the horizon. Looking long and wide will help you get a ‘feel’ for the plane and will assist in lowering it to the ground smoothly and on the centerline.
2. Use Wind Correction
Windy days can be intimidating, especially for new pilots. But they don’t have to be. Using proper wind correction can help you feel more confident out in the wind knowing that you know how to combat it effectively. Wind correction is the act of moving your ailerons in to the wind and using your rudder to keep you centered with the runway. Make sure to add a few knots of extra airspeed on windy days to maintain control.
3. Anticipate Ground Effect
Ground effect is most pronounced within one wingspan’s height of the airplane. For a typical Cessna 172, that is about 36 feet. That is, within 36 feet of touchdown your airplane will experience increased lift due to the decreased drag caused by ground effect. Learn to anticipate this increased performance and know that your aircraft will be floating through an extra cushion of air before touching down to help you nail those landings!
4. Line Up the Centerline With Your Feet
Landing the airplane in the middle of the runway can be a tough challenge, especially on windy days. One way to mentally prepare yourself for a center landing is to picture the centerline right below your right foot. With your foot right on the centerline, your nosewheel will touch down exactly right where you want it – in the center of the runway. This is especially important on windy days and on narrow runways so make sure to use proper wind correction and nail those landings every time.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice!
With all of the tips above, the best way to nail your landings is to practice as often as you can. If you’re a student pilot get your instructor to go out with you and do touch and go’s. If you’re a private pilot go spend some time in the pattern. Explore new runways, try new settings, and get to know your aircraft. It’s very important from a safety standpoint as well – when you get your speeds in check and know what your visual references are, it will make all your landings just that much easier and smoother.
*We are not flight instructors and this post should not be used for flight instruction. Always consult with your CFI!