Landing Errors

Richard Lindberg

1. Landing every time. Don't tell yourself to touch down every time you make a landing approach. Force yourself to go-around if the approach isn't a good one. Ninety nine per cent of the time, a bad approach results in a bad landing. You should actually be practicing approaches, not landings. When you make a bad approach, go around, set up and try it again. When you make a really good approach, then throttle back all the way to idle and land. Unless you are an expert, the approach determines the landing. When you have a good approach, the landing will just about do itself.

2. Touching down before you pass in front of yourself. Have you ever done this: You get a little nervous landing because of wind or maybe it's just not one of your "good" days. To hopefully make the landing easier, you make a big pattern, dragging it out. You end up touching down way before you get back in front of yourself. Is this how the landing went? BAM, the main gear spreads out. BAM, the nose gear bends. BAM, the prop breaks. Sound familiar? It's a very common landing error.
Let's analyze the touch down location. There are 3 places you can touch down, before yourself, right in front and past yourself. Right out in front is best. You have the best view of the fuselage angle and the descent rate. Past yourself is OK until you get way past. The plane is directional, right is right and left is left. The further away you get, the harder it is to tell the descent rate, but you can still set the plane up slightly nose high and let is touch. Now, let's look at landing before you get to yourself. The plane is coming toward you so steering is reversed. You are tense so this makes it worse. From a nose-on position, it's hard to tell the fuselage angle and the descent rate. This is the worst case for making a good landing. Even experts can't consistently make good landings far away from a nose-on position.
When you are having a bad day, give yourself an even chance. You should be turning early, not late. Land a little past yourself. You can see everything better and judge the touchdown better.

3. Seeing the bottom of the airplane. This is one you probably never thought of. If you can see the bottom of the airplane during a landing approach, the nose is too high. If you are set up on a final approach, the nose of the plane should be down in a glide position. When you can see the bottom of the airplane, you are approaching a stall. You need to either add power and go around or use the elevator stick to lower the nose. Stand with a couple of the good fliers and watch the plane on landing. You won't see the bottom of the plane.

4. Undershooting the runway. When you make a landing approach, you normally set up parallel to the runway on a downwind leg, throttle back and turn to final approach. You can either make one big, sweeping base-to-final turn or you can square the pattern off with a base leg, then a turn to final. Most beginners set up wide like they are going to make a squared off pattern, then turn too tightly and angle in to the runway.
There are three ways to line up for final approach. One, the right one, is exactly in line with the runway. The other is to overshoot a little past the runway and angle back. The third is to undershoot and angle toward the runway. This last one is the most common and the worst. When you undershoot, the plane ends up aimed right at you. Nose on is the worst position for control. It is hard to see small movements and to get the correct attitude for landing. Nose on is also the least safe direction. You are aimed at yourself and must make a turn or go around. Next, undershooting can put you high on final. Normally this wouldn't be too bad since most beginners land short, but it can put you in a position where you have to make a turn to keep from going over your head. This is a bad position for turning. You are low to the ground and staring at the nose of the plane. All of these make undershooting the runway the worst position to land from.
Overshooting, while not perfect, is not that bad. If you overshoot, you will be angling across the runway away from yourself, a safe direction to be going. You can usually see the side of the airplane so making a turn isn't that hard.
The solution, if you like to make one sweeping turn, is to set up closer to the runway and vary your bank to roll out in line with the runway. Or, you can make a definite base leg and not turn until you are in line with the runway.

5. Bouncing & Porpoising. If a bounce isn't caused by a very hard landing where the springiness of the gear flings you back up into the air, it is caused by touching down on the nose gear first. Nose gear first landings guarantee a bounce or a series of bounces called porpoising for the sea mammal who seems to continuously leap up into the air and splash back down. Lack of concentration and inattention can cause you to let the nose gear touch first. When you get to a couple of feet from the runway, you should concentrate on getting the nose slightly high. If the nose wheel is higher than the main wheels, you can freeze on the controls and just let the plane land itself. From a couple of feet altitude, you can't hurt it

6. Bashing & wandering. This is actually 2 errors caused by lack of experience and practice. They usually happen just after you first learn how to land. At first you are unable to divide your attention between correcting the elevator and correcting the ailerons so you concentrate on one or the other. You may concentrate on keeping the plane aligned with the runway and forget to flare. Naturally this results in banging down on the nose gear and a bounce or porpoise. On the other hand, you may concentrate on getting the nose just right and forget to steer. This results in you letting the plane wander all over the runway. Practice corrects both. Go back and do some low approaches, only landing when everything is just right.

7. The "Slow Curve" Error. I coined the name "Slow Curve Errors" in a book I wrote on RC back in 1980. You see this error all the time and normally don't recognize it. The plane makes a slow, shallow curve away from the pilot usually ending up on the far side of the runway, maybe in the grass. Here's what causes it. Lack of experience and natural tense-ness as you get low and close to the runway cause the pilot to make very small errors. You make a steering correction, but it is in the wrong direction. You can already land so the correction is small and you immediately notice the plane is turning the wrong way so you level the wings. Now you make the steering correction again, and again it is in the wrong direction. This continues and the plane nibbles away at a slow, curving path away from the pilot.
Watch for this and you'll see it at every field. To cure the Slow Curve Error, you need to practice some low approaches, flying the plane low and slow past yourself while trying to keep it in the center of the runway
Courtesy of Ed Moorman