I am a student pilot and I usually round out too high and I am not sure why. Can somebody guide me how to make decision whether I am too high or not.
There are some good answers here. I would just like to add a few points:
I don't like this idea of feeling for ground effect. I think this is unreliable, and will be different in different aircraft and conditions. I can only imagine the aircraft in a steeper than usual descent when I think of this, and not detecting ground effect because you have flown through it and hit the ground - hard.
Try to memorise the picture on the ground before take off, when sat in the cockpit. This will help.
Be aware of your peripheral vision, particularly around the sides of the dash (if you can see the runway that is). So while you should be looking in the middle distance, when the sides of the runway reach the same level as you, you are there.
You should always have some sink rate, so flaring too much and flying level or climbing, is clearly not right. So for example, rather than just pulling back on the stick to flare, reduce power at the same time as flaring just a little. That should increase your sink unless you are still a bit fast (Actually, if it does not thats an indicator that you are a bit fast).
Finally, you see lots of pilots kind of "feeling for the ground" by pulling back and then easing off then pulling back some more. Eventually the aircraft runs out of airspeed and falls the last 5 feet or so and the landing isn't too bad. A better technique would be to fly to the runway, fly level a little while, and just trying to keep the aircraft level by gradually applying back pressure. The gradual reduction in speed does the rest.
Also relax! And practice! That's the hard bit given the cost of flying!
P.S. I'm not a flight instructor, my only claim to fame is successfully landing a full motion 737 sim once with no instruction apart from air traffic responding to my Mayday call and telling me to fly the initial approach at 170 and threshold 130 (and giving me vectors to the ILS). Hope this helps you though.
The usual cause for flaring too high is that the pilot is looking at the runway in front of the propeller instead of down at the far end of the runway.
Next time you're up with your instructor, have him do the landing, and look at the far end of the runway while using your peripheral vision to judge your height above the surface.
On the next lap, you fly the airplane, and try to get the same sight picture, both in front of you, and in your peripheral vision.
Student pilot here, and this is an issue I've been wrestling with recently. For many landings, my CFI has told me the same points:
- Fly the plane down to the numbers (or other landing point. In a simulator, you could hold that heading, not flare, and you would crash exactly on the runway numbers).
- Make sure your landing speed is the same every time (varying any parameters between each landing - especially for a student pilot - will make it difficult to get a feel for a "good landing")
- Wait until you see the runway get really big, then begin your flare. Doing so beforehand will result in starting your flare too high. This is illustrated really well in this video.
- Savor the flare. The flare process is an iterative thing. The initial flare does not need a large pullback on the yoke. Small pullback, then wait for the plane to settle. The next pullback on the yoke should be slightly larger, since the plane has slowed down. Again, wait for the plane to settle. By the end, the plane gently touches down on the main wheels; the yoke should be pulled all the way back, and the nose wheel touches down last.
A lot of these were just words, and I didn't understand what he meant; it took me a lot of practice before I internalized them, with a "oooh, that's what you meant." In my opinion, there are a lot of aspects of flying that are subtle, and can't be simply read; they're things that are internalized with practice.
Many students flare too high - instinct is to not fly into the ground. Don't get discouraged, it will come with practice.
For me it's not a time thing or a sight thing, but a feel thing. I found flying at night to be a great thing for my landings because you have to depend more on feel than you do visual cues. If you get used to a certain sight picture and you then go to a different airfield you can get thrown off by a wider or narrower runway.
Try closing your eyes and following through on the controls while your instructor lands, pay attention to the seat of the pants feel.
Assuming you've made a stabilized approach (constant airspeed, stable rate of descent, and without the need for major control inputs) then the flare is just a matter of practice. I imagine as you get close to the runway (say roughly the same height above ground as a hangar roof) you will gradually reduce power to idle and pitch up from your nose-low approach attitude to a more nose-level attitude. This is often called the round-out and immediately precedes the flare. When I talk about a flare I am assuming you are already just a few feet above ground.
The flare, as you correctly stated, is the time when you gradually pitch up as the aircraft slows without climbing (ballooning). The purpose is to slow the airplane down and touchdown at the slowest possible speed. The difficulty you have with making the flare without ballooning is very common, and no matter what it will take practice. The best way to practice this is to sharpen your sense of vertical movement while landing. I recommend looking further down the runway--toward the horizon, and be aware of cues in your peripheral vision that your airplane is sinking or rising. Your peripheral vision is particularly useful when the aircraft nose blocks the horizon. Pay attention, and over time you will develop a feel for the aircraft's sink-rate.
In the flare you should increase pitch to keep the airplane barely sinking toward the ground--we're talking almost level. As the airplane slows in airspeed you will feel it sink. Increase pitch to all-but-stop the sinking. If you increase the pitch to the point where the airplane completely stops descending, then hold that pitch where it is until the airplane starts to sink again. If you pitch up too rapidly and the airplane starts to balloon, your best bet is usually a go-around, although very very slight balloons can sometimes be corrected by simply holding the pitch and waiting for more speed to bleed off and the airplane to sink again. In all cases, resist the urge to lower the pitch of the nose. Your airplane is still slowing down on its own, and lowering the nose will kill what little lift you have left and could set you on the pavement pretty hard.
The rate at which you'll have to pitch up in the flare will vary depending on the day, the weight of the airplane, your airspeed, winds, etc... Some days it will be very fluid and gradual, and on other days you may find yourself having to make a few quick pitch adjustments. But if you try to make your adjustments in response to how rapidly the aircraft is sinking toward the ground based on visual cues out the window, then you should have good luck.
Remember you a trying to control a one ton piece of aluminum flying at 50 mph within the precision of a few inches... it definitely takes practice! Have fun and good luck!
There are a few tricks to getting the roundout on a CE-172 right. One of them are wheelies.
The next time you fly with your instructor, coordinate with the CFI and request a high speed taxi down a runway from ATC or go to an untowered airport with a long runway. Line the a/c up on the runway centerline and start a normal takeoff roll. When the aircraft reaches 50 or so knots, reduce throttle and hold that speed while remaining on the ground. Apply back pressure on the yoke until the nosewheel lifts off the ground but the main gear remains on the runway. Hold that nose high attitude while remaining on the ground, both to get the feel for how much back pressure you need to maintain the nose high attitude and also take a mental photograph of what the runway looks like at that nose high attitude. You will use this as a reference as where you want to be as you execute the roundout. NOTE: Make sure you terminate this maneuver and come to a complete stop before you run out of runway!
The next exercise will be an extension of your low speed flight training in the landing configuration. You will be flying a roundout at 1-2 feet above the ground right down the runway. Request the option from ATC or practice at a local untowered airport with a long runway as before and set up for a normal landing approach. As you enter the roundout, do not pull the throttle to idle but instead maintain enough power to maintain about 52-55 kts in the flare. Pay close attention to the airspeed and the height of the aircraft above the ground, holding off a touchdown and keeping the airplane about 1-2 feet off the ground at all times. If you touchdown inadvertently, hey it happens, and that's exactly what we are going to do in a normal landing anyway. Just pay close attention to your airspeed to prevent a stall and don't let the aircraft get too high during the exercise. As the end of the runway nears, apply full power smoothly and execute a go around. Repeat this process several times until you feel comfortable establishing the airplane in the roundout like this. After this transition back to doing a normal landing again. You will fly the airplane just like you did during the roundout exercise above only this time the power will be at idle and you will hold this height and attitude until the airplane is exhausted of energy and settles onto the runway, generally after the stall horn whines a bit.
WARNING: These exercises should be discussed with your CFI prior to attempting and should only be executed under the immediate supervision of your CFI, and not on a solo flight.
The C-172 is a great little trainer but like a lot of GA airplanes from that era, it takes quite a bit of throw in the control inputs during slow flight and flaring, which I'm not fond of, but that was the style of the 1950s and 60s. With some practice, and a lot of bad landings to boot, you should be able to grease 'em most of the time.
I don't think of round-out as at an altitude, I think of it as at a horizontal position.
If I'm established on the PAPI/VASI vertical guidance, then when the numbers are directly below me, and the Touchdown Bars are filling my windscreen, then its time to flare.
If you're flaring too high, its because you're flaring too soon.
(You can probably still see the numbers.)
(Obviously, adjust your flight ONLY WITH AN INSTRUCTOR)
Try not judging altitude, but judging position and sight-picture.
For reference. I am a student pilot. Cleared for solo yesterday. Solo scheduled next week. Training in a DA20. For me, the widening of the runway is a good indicator but you have to recognize it before it happens. If you wait for it to happen, it's probably too late and you have to do a quick hard pull on the stick which could lead to a bounce, or possibly balloon.(Remember, we are talking student here) So point is, you have to feel it coming and start a slow round off as the widening is happening.(And calms the CFI too) Fortunately, my home field is 5000ft and there is plenty of runway to spare if you set it down anywhere close to the keys. Don't be afraid to hang there for a few seconds a few feet above and let the plane slow down....It will! It wont fall like a stone either unless you make a drastic control input. You are in ground effect. I have also found that my best landing were ones that I didn't think too much about. They just happened. Above all else, Have Fun and use your checklist.
The cue I was taught related to the visual effect of the runway "widening" as you arrived at the proper flare point. Mind you, this effect will occur at different altitudes depending on the runway width. I trained at a field where the main runway had a paved width of only 25ft. Visiting a larger airport with a runway say 200ft wide required a bit of an adjustment to avoid flaring too high. Nevertheless, it is possible to develop a "feel" (visual, not seat-of-the-pants) for your height over the runway based on the way the edges of the runway (or lines of runway lights) appear to widen out.
The only reliable way to land an aircraft close to the prescribed spot is my setting the pitch 4-7 degrees lower than the flare pitch before touchdown on final and short final. Then use power ( adding or subtracting) to judge your glideslope. Plant the plane to stop it faster.
Note: adjust your pitch degrees and ultimately speed based on the gust componet for the day.
Some instructors teach to maintain speed a certain margin above stall speed but what happens is when you come to the threshold and than either use up the whole runway floating or flare to high. Have the pitch set near round out.
Don't "flare". I think the whole "flare" thing got started in World War II or something. I don't know, but ignore it.
The 172 is a tricycle gear aircraft that is designed for 3-point landings. You should not be "flaring" it. They called it the "land-o-matic" for a reason: you don't need to (and should not) "flare" it.
The error to avoid is landing on the nose wheel, which is why some instructors teach "flaring", but this is really bad practice and an example of overcompensation to a fault. Teaching students to "flare" a 172 to avoid a hard nose-wheel landing is a faulty and improper teaching technique that goes against Cessna's own guidance in the POH and in their flight manuals. The only requirement is that you land mainwheels first. Other than that you should be landing in a level attitude.
When instructors tell you to look "at the end of the runway" or whatever, that advice is just as bad. The majority of runways have a grade of some sort and many have significant gradients. Looking at the end of a runway with a gradient will cause errors. Where you should be looking is at the touchdown point, not the end of the runway.
Watch the touchdown
The whole key to landing is to know EXACTLY where you are going to touchdown. The touchdown point can be recognized because every point before it will be moving downwards in your vision, and every point after it will be moving upwards.
On final, establish your glideslope and adjust your touchdown point to be on the numbers. If you cannot recognize the touchdown point, do go-rounds until you can visualize the touchdown point (also called the "aiming point"). The touchdown point is that point that stays motionless on your windshield.
If your glideslope is anywhere near correct, your attitude will be correct automatically and you will land on the main wheels. There should be ZERO need to be flaring or doing anything weird. You should set that glideslope and land on that same glideslope on the touchdown point. Once you touchdown, ease the nose wheel down. No need to "flare". Good glideslope, good touchdown point, good landing. It's that simple.
Okay, if you understand the above, you might be asking: "Fine, I understand, but how do nosewheel landings happen then, if that is the bad thing?" Good question. Nosewheel landings happen when the pilot dives--a very bad thing. What happens is that they come in too high and react by pushing the stick hard forward, diving. Obviously if you do this, you are abandoning your glide slope aren't you? If you have a set glideslot and touchdown point, this should NEVER happen EVER. When somebody dives, it is because they do not even know what their touchdown point is, and consequently it turns out to be off the runway. Trying to force a landing when your touchdown point is off the runway is a bad idea, obviously. If you have cognizance of your touchdown point, you will never be in a situation where you feel the need to dive.