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I fly a Piper Cherokee PA-28R for my training and have a question about the techniques used for a short field landing.

What is the difference between a normal landing roundout/flare and a short-field landing roundout/flare? Should I begin the roundout and/or idle the power sooner to get minimum floating? Where does the difference in 'float distance' come from?

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    $\begingroup$ Excessive airspeed? It's not how fast you can fly, it's how precise. $\endgroup$ – kevin Dec 11 '16 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure but minimum float and short field might not be synonymous (if I can use that word). You can have minimum to no float at all on a huge runway and you can successfully land at a short field with the float you're used to. Understanding the float and analyzing the way you yourself fly will help you get the landing you're hoping for. I would have rephrased the question (don't want to edit your question) to: what are the techniques used for a short field landing.?. $\endgroup$ – user6035379 Dec 11 '16 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to mention what aircraft you fly: sometimes there are specific techniques for individual types. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 11 '16 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Definitely depends on the aircraft. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Dec 11 '16 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ It's all about energy management, you need to keep your airspeed at the low end. $\endgroup$ – GdD Dec 12 '16 at 10:06
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I did all my training in PA-28's (Warrior and Archer II mainly) and here is my advice)

First off, practice makes perfect in all cases here.

Second, I am not a CFI and you should ALWAYS seek the experience of a CFI to help you learn how to fly properly. Discuss everything with your CFI before trying anything.

The PA-28 is one of the most benign airframes and even in the bumpiest the bumpiest of conditions you can fly it by the numbers every time. Floating on landing is generally caused by (in my experience) 2 things.

  1. Excessive speed on final - Remember you will only land nicely once you have gotten rid of all excess speed. This happens during your round-out and flare to landing. On a short field even a perfect landing will take up more runway if you are overspeed since you need to bleed that speed off.

  2. Ballooning - This is generally a result of over speed and over flaring. Since the PA-28 is a low wing (compared to the high wing of the C172) an over-flare to early will cause significant ballooning as you effectively bounce off the ground effect. A proper timed round out and flare will come in time.

One thing you can do to mitigate this (and I found this helped as a student pilot for me) is to fly a longer final leg (and thus a longer downwind). When I was learning to fly a stable approach it took time for me to get the settings in and really nail the approach. A longer final will help you settle the plane into place as a student and really nail a maneuver like this. Generally tight patterns are taught but if its safer and better for you to fly a longer final and nail the maneuver, do it.

In the PA-28's you can (and should) be right on 65 kts when doing a soft field. Practice descending at a constant airspeed at altitude with your instructor. 500ft/min right on 65Kts with full flaps, then come back into the pattern and use what you learned to come in right as you should.

Cut the power a bit earlier. Generally you are most likely taught to cut the power over the numbers and touch down at the markers. In a short field situation you can cut the power a bit earlier, pitch down to keep you speed up, and touch down right on the numbers. You should have no issue getting the plane down in under 1000Ft.

Train at an actual short field (or as short as you are allowed to fly). My flight school generally had us going between 5000ft airports with 2 runways (we were based at KPNE). Crosswinds were never really an issue and runway length left plenty of margin for error. My instructor made it a point to take me to 3000 X 60 fields to really get practice in (the shortest the fligh schools insurance would cover). Depending on where you are training out of this may not be an issue.

One more general habit of new pilots is over correcting and getting your self into an increasingly corrective state. This happens both laterally and vertically but in your case the vertical over correction is going to be the killer. If you are comming in and notice that you are low you add power, pitch up a bit and now you are too high. You pull power and pitch back down but this builds up some speed. Now you find your self over correcting all over the place to get back to a stabilized aproach. This is where the long final will help. You need to really get the plane on that 65Kt mark, trim it off, leave the power alone and fly it in. If you get bumped by a gust or a thermal wait a second and see if the termal settles then and only then should you come in with a small correction.

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The key to landing where you want is to control your airspeed on final. Consider this, during takeoff the airplane doesn't just jump off the ground; it needs to be going at a sufficient speed to allow the airplane to climb. The same is true in reverse while on landing.

Here is an excerpt from a C-172 POH. Notice the normal landing speed range is between 60-70 KIAS and the short field landing is precisely 61 KIAS. That speed will ensure little to no flare.

I always aim just a little short to allow for a little flare during the short field landing.

C-172 Landing Procedure

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The answers noted above are helpful advice and I'll add the following as well.

1) It's all about airspeed control on final. You gotta keep that needle pinned at your target airspeed while remaining on glide path.

Practice technique: on a fair weather day, calm winds and at an airport with either a visual glideslope indicator or an ILS approach, set up on a long final and establish yourself on glideslope at proper airspeed. Note your nose attitude, trim settings and engine tachometer or manifold pressure gauge and remember them for future reference. Make a mental photograph of the approach attitude and use this for future reference as well.

On any approaches thereafter, as you finish turning onto final, set your power, trim and attitude to these numbers and allow the aircraft to settle onto the approach. The aircraft should shortly establish itself at the target airspeed with neutral elevator input and little adjustments needed thereafter to fly the approach. Once established, hold that chosen attitude and use small changes in power - walk the throttle - to correct for glideslope deviations, returning to your chosen power settings as the aircraft returns to the glide slope.

2) a gentle touchdown is not required if the aircraft is at the proper attitude in the flare and within limits. A lot of new pilots think that 'greasing' a landing, that is making the smoothest touchdown possible is the hallmark of a good landing. As a result they often fly shallow approaches and hold off the flare indefinitely using up extra runway in a float to kiss the main wheels on the pavement. Short field landing should not be greasers. This is why we fly target airspeeds on final so when we do round out, the airplane will be exhausted of energy and plop down on the mains quickly and as close to but aft of the runway threshold as possible. It also guarantees better braking once on the ground.

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    $\begingroup$ I would be careful about saying "don't retract flaps": it's in the POH short-field procedure for many aircraft. If a DPE asks why you did or didn't do something, "it's the procedure in the POH" is always a good answer :-) Having said that, outside of checkrides I completely agree about experimenting to find out what works best. And FWIW, in my last checkride I did retract the flaps (per the POH) and the DPE said "we used to bust people for that years ago, but we don't now because it's in the POH". $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 12 '16 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ For more on the flap thing, see: Raising the flaps right after touchdown. Good or bad?. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 12 '16 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I've read the Cessna and Piper POHs on the subject and the amplified version of it usually goes something like "For maximum brake performance, retract the flaps, hold the control wheel full back, and apply maximum brake pressure without skidding the tires." I'd have to have a chat with the test pilots who wrote that at Independence, KS or Vero Beach as it does not seem to conform with reality. Unless someone can demonstrate why leaving the flaps down has some extra advantage to it, I cannot conclude that my deviation from that specified in the POH is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Dec 12 '16 at 23:34

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