January 4, 2013
You’ve been on a roll gaining piloting skills lately—especially when it comes to landings. Approach speed is consistently correct, and you have developed a good sense of timing for the roundout, flare, and touchdown. The word “solo” has crept into your flight instructor’s discussion of near-term training goals.
There is one element of landings you haven’t quite nailed, and you wonder why. It seems that many of your touchdowns are still slightly too fast, with the trainer’s attitude at touchdown a little nose-low. The approaches seem to be working out just right, but an instant before you are ready, the main wheels touch the ground.
What’s up with that?
It could be that you are still trying to keep sight of the runway over the nose after you should be switching to peripheral vision for cues about your height above the runway, descent rate, and whether the wings are level.
Even if you grasp the idea that many aircraft in the landing attitude are essentially blind directly ahead, you may still be fighting yourself: Many trainees unconsciously ease off just a little on back-elevator pressure just when it’s needed the most.
Reasons for the problem vary, and are worth exploring with your flight instructor. Are you hesitant to increase the angle of attack toward stall? Perhaps you need more practice using peripheral vision to remain oriented to your position above the runway to feel confident with the technique. (Try observing a few landing demonstrations to experience the role of your peripheral vision with the trainer in the landing attitude.)
You can let other aircraft cues, such as the sensations you have come to recognize when your trainer enters ground effect, help you master the transition.
Or head out to the practice area and, at a safe altitude, explore again the pitch attitude and behavior of your trainer as it approaches the stalled angle of attack in the landing configuration—always a worthwhile practice exercise.
Perhaps all that’s needed on that next landing is an encouraging reminder from your instructor (or yourself) to hold the proper pitch attitude as you complete the flare and touchdown.
Becoming comfortable switching to peripheral vision is a simple mental adjustment that can help make your very good landings perfect!
Jeppesen’s JeppDirect online store has the Private Pilot Maneuvers Software Course. The course walks students through training—from preflight inspections to takeoffs and landings—on a five-CD-ROM set.
The Flight Sim Pilot Shop has available the Gleim Private Pilot Training Kit, an all-in-one program designed to expedite training for the private pilot certificate. The kit includes flight maneuvers and practical test prep, FAA knowledge test questions, knowledge test prep software download, syllabus book, and training record book.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: What is a visual descent point (VDP)?
Answer: A visual descent point is a defined point on the final approach course of a nonprecision straight-in instrument approach procedure from which normal descent from the minimum descent altitude (MDA) to the runway touchdown point may be started, provided a visual reference (such as lights, threshold markings, visual approach slope indicator) is available to the pilot. Descent below the MDA should not occur before reaching the VDP. There is also no special technique required to fly an approach with a VDP.
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