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Training Tip: Taking on touch and goesTraining Tip: Taking on touch and goes

A student pilot heads out to the flight line, telling the folks in the terminal he is looking forward to a session of touch and goes.

Touch and goes might seem simple, but complacency can lead to errors. Photo by Mike Fizer.

Sounds like fun. But are touch and goes the only part of the day’s plan? Wouldn’t some variety make the session a better learning opportunity?

Touch and goes are like fast food in terms of their flight-training value: You can fit in several more landings per hour than if you were to finish each traffic pattern with a full-stop landing. But the nutritional value of your training may suffer.

Beyond wedging more takeoffs (minus the standing starts) and landings (minus the decelerations to taxiing) into your practice session, touch and goes do have their strong points.

At a towered airport, flying more traffic patterns means experiencing a greater mix of traffic scenarios, and a wider variety of clearances and instructions. (Use good judgment. If it is getting too busy for comfort—yours or the tower’s—consider making a discreet exit toward the practice area, or call it a day.) At a nontowered airport, where you face fewer constraints, you may have an opportunity to practice more specialized techniques like short- and soft-field landings—and if you fly at a nontowered airport with two runways, and there’s a breeze blowing but little traffic, it may be a good day to work on crosswind landings, within your authorized solo-flight limits.

The drawbacks of touch and goes emerge if you fail to master the elements of takeoffs and landings that touch and goes largely exclude. So be sure to mix in a few full-stop landings that require you to taxi clear of the runway and return to the takeoff end for your next traffic pattern. On a very long runway, performing a stop-and-go may be an option that economizes your time.

Don’t get complacent. Some student pilots discover the hard way that the built-in haste of the “go” portion of a touch and go makes it an error-prone phase. Adding takeoff power too quickly, or without adequate directional control, could yaw your trainer into a runway excursion, or pitch it up beyond the departure-stall angle-of-attack—especially if lots of nose-up trim was applied on approach.

Forgetting to shut off carburetor heat can expose a carbureted engine to unfiltered air.

Retracting flaps improperly, or forgetting that step entirely in the haste to go, is a setup for loss of control.

So be diligent and deliberate with your control inputs on the go, and be ready to abort any takeoff that is not going as planned.

Share your ideas about touch and goes at AOPAHangar.com.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Student, Flight Training, Takeoffs and Landings
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