Reference: FS2002 Ground School Text, FS9 Flying Lessons, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual, AOPA publications

Landing is perhaps the most difficult maneuver but also the most rewarding. Doing a landing well will take you hours to perfect the skill, but it’s worth it. There is a certain satisfaction to putting her down on the numbers and precisely on the centerline. Correct airspeed, descent rate and compensation for winds are all critical to a successful landing.

Homework assignment: Read Class 6: Landings and Class 10: "The Traffic Pattern" in the Ground School Text (FS2002); or Lesson 6: Landings and Private Pilot Lesson 4: The Traffic Pattern (FS2004)

Technique: Traffic Patterns…

First you need to learn how to approach an airport.

We are flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and certain standards exist for entry into a predictable traffic pattern for landing. Can you imagine what it would be like if pilots approached airports from random directions and competed to be first for final approach on a runway?

Patterns consist of legs that form a box around the active runway. Winds dictate which runway is active at a field and you always want to takeoff and land into the wind. You will normally enter a pattern about midfield at a 45 degree angle into the downwind leg and already at pattern altitude (1,000 AGL for small aircraft). Follow that heading (runway reciprocal) for ½ to ¾ miles past the runway threshold, turn 90 degrees left onto the base leg, then watching the runway out the left window, turn 90 degrees left to final.

Patterns are always flown to the left unless specified otherwise instructed by the airport manager. You can find this information at for airports in the US. Enter the downwind leg at "pattern altitude." For light single-engine aircraft this is usually 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL).

Descent path…

Once on final approach you want about a 3 degree descent angle. In the Cessna 182S flying at an indicated airspeed of 80 knots this will be a descent rate of about 450 feet per minute. There are several ways to ensure you are on the proper glidepath.

The most accurate way is to use an ILS if one exists for the runway you are landing at. This will be the topic of a future lesson under instrument flying, but if you are familiar with this technique there is no reason not to use it on a visual approach.


Second method is with visual aids such as VASI or PAPI. These are lighting systems adjacent to the runway threshold at some, but not all runways. Their operation is described here.

When none of these indicators are available begin descent from pattern altitude on downwind abeam the runway threshold. Perform about a 500 fpm descent. Turning for the final, pick an aiming point on the runway. As you approach if that point rises in your windshield you are sinking too fast. Reduce your descent rate. If the aiming point drops then increase your descent rate.

Descent procedure…

Enter the downwind at pattern altitude. Abeam the threshold, pull throttle back to about 16 inches. Maintain altitude and as the airspeed falls into the white arc, set flaps to 10. Maintain 90 knots. As you turn to base set flaps to 20 and maintain 80 knots. Watch the balloon effect when setting flaps. The aircraft will tend to pitch up due to the increase in lift and you counteract this effect by pushing forward on the stick to maintain descent rate and airspeed. Turning final set flaps full and pitch and trim for 70 knots while maintaining proper glidepath. You should be about 500 AGL turning final. Adjust power, pitch and trim for a stabilized approach. If you find yourself sinking too fast then add a little throttle. If descent rate is too low reduce throttle a little. Propeller and mixture should both be full forward on final approach. At about 50 feet above the runway raise the nose to about 10 degrees pitch up and until descent rate decreases to about 100 fpm and reduce throttle to idle. This is the landing flare and it ensures you touchdown the main gear before the nose gear. Don't flare to high or you will float down the runway and then stall.

Practice flight one:Learn To Fly – Student Pilot – Lesson 6a: Landing; or FS2004 Lesson 6 Fly This Lesson Now

Practice flight two: FS2002 Learn To Fly – Student Pilot – Lesson 6b: Landing; or FS2004 Private Pilot Lesson 4: The Traffic Pattern

Traffic Pattern for 25L KLGB For additional practice start in the ramp area of KLGB. Perform your checklists, and taxi to runway 25L. Takeoff, and climb at Vx (63 knots) until reaching 700 AGL. Pitch down to accelerate to Vy (80 knots) and turn left to 210 degrees. Keep flaps set at 10. Climb turning left to enter a downwind leg and level at pattern altitude of 1,000 feet and maintain 80 knots. You should be about one-half mile from the runway on downwind and abeam the threshold. Note your clock time, reduce throttle and begin an 80 knot descent. About 30 seconds later you’ll be ½ to ¾ mile from the threshold. Turn left base set flaps to 20. Watch your descent rate and airspeed. Adjust power, pitch and trim as you go. Turn left for final and set flaps to full. Check your height against the VASI and adjust descent rate as needed.

Continue flying this pattern doing touch-and-goes (touch gear down, then accelerate for takeoff) or low approaches (don’t touch down) to stay in the pattern. Practice until you are comfortable with altitudes, airspeeds, approach glidepath and landing flare.


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