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Training Tip: Make this a full stop

Show me a checkride-quality takeoff—smooth acceleration and rotation, flawless directional control, correct V-speed nailed in the climb—and I’m guessing it didn’t start with a touch and go.

Photo by Chris Rose.

Sure, touch and goes keep an airport’s traffic flowing, and they maximize the number of times you can orbit the traffic pattern during a session, but at a cost: On a “go,” you lose opportunities to control the aircraft during the earliest stage of acceleration from zero airspeed when power is high, aerodynamic control responsiveness is nil, and directional control is most challenging. On a touch-and-go landing, there’s no chance to work on controlling your trainer throughout the delicate deceleration down to taxi speed.

Starting from scratch, on the other hand, gives you time to review your checklist and reconfigure your aircraft properly—and you get to compare what kind of performance your individual aircraft delivers to its published takeoff-and-climb numbers.

I have observed that pilots who subsist on a steady diet of touch and goes develop risky habits on takeoff like leaving carburetor heat on or forgetting to retract approach flaps and retrim—a potential setup for a departure stall. (The low-and-slow realm of flight is no place for sloppy flying.) Routinely making full-stop landings and returning to the starting point for the next takeoff breaks that possible accident chain.

Not only does quality top quantity in the traffic pattern—at towered airports with sufficiently long runways you can reduce taxi time by requesting clearance for stop-and-go landings. Expect the clearance, if granted, to be issued for “the option,” which, according to the Pilot/Controller Glossary, lets you “make a touch-and-go, low approach, missed approach, stop and go, or full stop landing at the discretion of the pilot.” Note that pilots “should advise ATC if they decide to remain on the runway, of any delay in their stop and go, delay clearing the runway, or are unable to comply with the instruction(s).”

Remember also that full-stop landings “with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern” are mandatory for meeting some night-flight and cross-country aeronautical-experience requirements for private pilot applicants.

Whether it’s a normal, short-field, soft-field, or crosswind landing you are demonstrating, give the component skills involved the attention they deserve for the moment when the designated examiner conducting your practical test asks you to make the next one full stop.

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: Training and Safety, Aeronautical Decision Making, Student
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