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No trick to good takeoffs, landingsNo trick to good takeoffs, landings

Aviators in the FAA Production Studio at Sun ’n Fun listened attentively as Kathleen Vasconcelos, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s manager of safety education programs, presented “Mastering Takeoffs and Landings.” Filled with practical tips and informative video examples, the program teaches that there is not a magical secret to consistently making good takeoffs and landings—but it provides a wealth of tips that will help pilots achieve that goal.


“If you’re not at half the stall speed at 25 percent of the runway, abort,” Vasconcelos suggested. Whether for a distraction like an open door, smoke in the cockpit, or any other reason, “the sooner you abort, the better. If you’re thinking about going around, you probably should go around.”

How short is too short for a short-field takeoff? Vasconcelos suggests the “50/50” solution. “Add 50 percent to the distance in your POH for takeoff over a 50-foot obstacle,” she said.


Don’t overthink your landings, Vasconcelos told her audience. “It’s not a beauty contest.” The key is to do it safely, she explained. “We all want a greaser, right? Sometimes that’s not the best thing.” If there are strong or gusty crosswinds, for example, it may be better to plant the airplane firmly so that it stays on the ground. Videotaped examples reinforced her point.

Stabilized approaches are key to consistent, good landings, she said. Generally your approach should be stabilized by 300 to 400 feet above ground level. “Have your own policy,” she said. “This is something you should think about beforehand.

“Forward slips are a great tool to have in your tool kit,” Vasconcelos added. The key is to know how to transition into and out of them smoothly.

“Use the Goldilocks principle when landing,” Vasconcelos suggested. That means the aircraft isn’t flying too slowly or too fast—the airspeed is just right. Too slow and the airplane will drop onto the runway; too fast, and it will float. She proved the point by showing a video clip of a Mooney landing much too fast. “It floated so long, I was able to get a drink of water during that [video],” she said.

She related her own challenges as a student pilot in learning when to flare. “What really helped me was learning to shift my eyes to the end of the runway,” she recalled.

When coping with crosswinds, “be aggressive with the controls,” she noted. Rudder authority is normally the limiting factor. “Use the minimum flaps needed for the runway length,” she added. “Fly the winds that actually exist, not the wind you expect to be there.” And remember to hold those control inputs after touchdown.

Find more tips and tricks for mastering takeoffs and landings in the foundation's related Safety Advisor. Want immediate access to other AOPA Air Safety Foundation seminars? Visit the foundation's SafetyCast Web page, for more than 20 free on-demand seminars on a wide variety of topics.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.

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