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Training Tip: Goalposts and go-aroundsTraining Tip: Goalposts and go-arounds

Many new students get the impression that landings come in one of three distinct flavors: normal, short-field, or soft-field landings. In reality, the techniques are often combined.

Pilots should develop their landing skills beyond textbook parameters to handle real-world landing scenarios they might encounter. Photo by David Tulis.

Short fields can be hard or soft, and crosswinds don’t care how long your runway is or what surface it has. A “normal” landing on a super-long runway won’t work well if the nearest taxiway is 2,000 feet further down the strip. A similar problem arises if you make an okay landing on an average-length runway, but must then turn around and taxi back to an exit point—possibly making another aircraft go around or distort its traffic pattern to give you time to clear.

For these reasons, and to develop proficiency beyond book boundaries, set your training goalposts to give you the skill to handle landings on the real-world runways you expect to use.

At one of the outlying airports in this area that has likely seen more landings by student pilots than all other kinds of landings combined, for example, Runway 30 gets the most action. At 3,998 feet long, it is a typical strip for practice takeoffs-and-landings sessions. But as the airport diagram illustrates, if your landing is a little imprecise and carries you beyond the intersection with Runway 4/22, it will take you some time to turn around and taxi off.  

However, if the pilot plans the approach with the goal of stopping the aircraft before reaching the intersecting runway, it may change the choice of landing technique to use—with the comfort factor of knowing that more than half the runway remains available as a safety margin.

Speaking of go-arounds, if the approach is not going to meet your expectations, perform one and set it up again. The go around/rejected landing maneuver, like crosswind landings, can always benefit from more practice—and that’s not just instructor talk directed at a student pilot audience.

All pilots, including working pros flying “heavy iron,” need to get with the go-around program—a point highlighted in the August edition of Callback, the newsletter of the Aviation Safety Reporting System, which offered examples “that reveal some unvarnished truths about go-arounds and provide topics for discussion that may enhance safety during a critical phase of flight.”

Do the runways you use take you beyond the book to make good landings? Share your experience 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: Takeoffs and Landings, Student, Flight Training
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