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Flightgear Practice: Handling the Landing

Updated on May 29, 2011

The irony of flying is that getting the plane to takeoff is peanuts compared to the landing part.

Its not as difficult though it may the first time you try it without knowing anything. Its actually a matter of perception and balance, and once you understand the basics, its super simple.

You need to be aware of three things when you are landing.

  1. You should be heading straight to the runway, in the direction of the runway when you land, to make this happen properly, you need to understand radio navigation, and you can learn it here.
  2. The atltitude. Remember, you aren't always going down till the altimeter touches zero, which is the sea level. You are only going to go down to the height of the runway above sea level. You can lookup runway heights on the IFR Charts shown by Atlas
  3. Airspeed

There are two phases involved in getting the aircraft to the ground. The first phase is called "descent", and the other is "landing".Every aircraft has prescribed settings for these two phases. If you don't know the settings, don't fly the plane! You can lookup Flightgear's wiki for this, just google "Flightgear <aircraft-name>" and you should get the info in no time.

The Edwards AFB runway is at 2302ftt above sea level
The Edwards AFB runway is at 2302ftt above sea level
A vertical airspeed indicator
A vertical airspeed indicator

Getting the perception right

Its not about the yoke, its about the power. Most of the landing procedure involves using the power, so don't push the yoke and point the nose of your plane to the runway!

You don't steer the plane down to the runway, you let it fall softly from the sky onto the runway

A Flying aircraft with the right approach and landing settings doesn't easily give up flying, so you're pretty safe unless you pull the power all the way down.

You aren't dead if you feel the plane isn't going to land right as long as the settings are in place. Just pull the flaps up a bit, increase your power and head up again into the sky!

When it comes to altitude and airspeed, don't try to get it perfect...bring it roughly to the expected values and then let your instinct take over. Trying to bring it to the exact values will make you very panicky, and in flying, panic signals the end of a good flight and a considerable number of lives as well.

Getting the balance right

Balancing Act #1

Power controls altitude. "Nonsense",you say, "if I push the yoke, I will lose altitude too!". Well, what you say is true, but I'd really love to see the supersonic low pass that you'd make over the runway as well.

So, Power controls altitude, as you reduce the power your aircraft will begin to lose altitude which you'll be able to see in the altimeter. If you are falling too fast, pull on the yoke. To check this, keep your eyes on the vertical airspeed indicator to make sure that the rate at which you are falling is not too high. Most planes don't like landing like a stone falling from a building, and they'll take their revenge straight to the grave!

Balancing act #1 Summarized: Reduce power to lose altitude, pull yoke to control rate of fall.

Balancing Act #2

Yoke controls airspeed(not the vertical airspeed). if you haven't landed properly ever, I'll take a bet that you didn't know this!

Yoke controls airspeed. Pull the yoke and the plane loses speed. Push the yoke and the plane gains speed.

Balancing act #2 Summarized: To get to the desired airspeed, either pull on the yoke to slow down, or push it to speed up, depending on what you need to do to get to that airspeed.

Making them both work

What do you do if you pull the yoke to get to the desired airspeed, but you're plane is falling too slow or climbing? You guessed it....lower the power.

What do you do if you have the right airspeed and want to go to lower altitude without increasing it? Again, lower the power

What do you do if you have the right altitude but your airspeed is too high? reduce the power and pull on the yoke

What do you do if you have the right altitude but your airspeed is too low? increase the power and push on the yoke.

Do a couple of practice flights just to get your balancing act right.

And finally, the procedure

  1. Reduce power to start losing altitude, control rate of fall.
  2. If you're power is in the right setting you should see the airspeed also coming down, pull the yoke up a bit if you want to lose airspeed faster, but try to maintain the rate of fall as well.
  3. Once your airspeed reaches the speed limits for lowering the flap settings, lower the flaps.
  4. Progressively do this till you reach the right flap setting for descent
  5. Watch your plane beautifully glide down
  6. Once you get your plane down to around 1000ft above the ground, hold that altitude. Remember that 1000ft above the ground doesn't mean that your altimeter shows 1000.
  7. Lower your landing gear
  8. Align the plane to the runway, when runways are perfectly aligned, the center line looks like a vertically straight line and the runway looks like a trapezoid.
  9. As you get to a point where you can just about clearly see the runway, start lowering your altitude further towards 300ft above the ground.
  10. You should hit the 300ft mark at a point where the runway looks like it can be reached in another 20 seconds or so.
  11. At this point, if you're confident that the plane will land at a decent point on the runway, push the flaps all the way down or to the required flap settings for landing and reduce the power to idle. If you don't think so, perform a "missed approach" by reducing the flaps and taking off.
  12. The aircraft will seem to float for a while and then it'll start descending down on to the runway.
  13. At this point, start pulling on the yoke. The aircraft will seem like it doesn't want to go up. That's fine, but just keep pulling on the yoke, till the aircraft is tilted upwards. This keeps the plane from landing nose down.
  14. Keep the plane absolutely straight, don't bother to correct the heading at this point, because if you haven't got it right, you're more likely to cause greater disaster by landing the plane tilted. Why? because most aircraft store fuel on their wings. You don't want that touching the ground now do you?
  15. The main wheels(at the back of the plane) will touch the ground
  16. Now, align your plane if it isn't by controlling the rudder(click and hold mouse button and move left/right)
  17. gently bring the nose of the plane down. In many aircraft the nose will come down by itself as the plane loses speed, others need a little help from the yoke.
  18. Once the nose is down, let the aircraft roll for a while, as the speed comes down you can start hitting the brakes. The plane will bend down a little and start losing speed. Bring the speed down to around 20 kts.
  19. Use the rudder to taxi the plane...you can hit the brakes anytime to get the speed down if the plane is speed up too much. Once you're done taxiing and you stop, engage the parking brake.

Here's a nice video of me landing, to help you gauge the approach and landing visually.

A Pretty good landing with the Aerostar 700

A Final Note

I'm noticing that quite a few of you are reading my tutorials. Please do share your experiences of flying the flightplans or the radio navigation tutorials as well. I'd love to hear from you guys!

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