I've looked at the other question asking about when to disconnect the AP on an airliner and I get that it's very situational depending on the pilot and conditions.

I've found I'm too reliant on the autopilot for an auto land in my PC flight simulator. I've been trying to practise manual landings but I'm suffering badly from when I do manage to stay on course with the runway of doing 600-900 fpm landings or floating way too long and I know this isn't down to getting my flare right.

Are there any tricks to improve my landings? I've been trying to start disconnecting the autopilot once I'm on the glide at around 2000ft but I'm finding I'm ending up not lined up with the runway. The only way I usually land well is if I disconnect at around 200ft and even then I usually land hard.

Is it common for pilots to fly in manually the full glide or is it a lot more common the only fly the last few hundred feet manually?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Practise makes perfect. You can't expect to be able to fly an airplane perfectly after a month of playing with a desktop flight simulator. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2017 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ It's also much more difficult to land a PC sim than a real plane. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ What speed are you at on short final? If you are too fast it makes it extremely difficult to flare properly. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Feb 13, 2017 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Speed is usually as close to VREF as I can, usually approach speed is reasonable within 5 mph of my intended approach speed, only exception is wheen ATC on VATsim force me into a fast approach I sometimes find it difficult to slow down quick enough. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2017 at 8:19

2 Answers 2


You are experiencing what real world pilots also experiences as they level up: unable to keep up with the plane.

You are unable to keep up with the plane because your mind is behind the plane. You are doing what you'd do if you're flying a Cessna: you react after you see. In a jet, things happen very fast. A large aircraft, like a B737, is also heavy and the controls are not as responsive. That is why it became impossible to you.

To fly high-performance aircraft, your mind has to stay ahead of the plane. Anticipate what will happen. Do not react to what is happening. If you only react to something that has happened while flying a jet, you're already too late.

Technique-wise, you should focus more on the attitude indicator (AI). The AI is the only instrument which tells you the future. Altitude tells you the present, and the vertical speed indicator tells you the past. These instruments let you verify if 2 seconds ago you did correctly. To predict what the plane is going to do in the next second, you need the attitude indicator. Say the plane is now pitched zero degrees, and it is descending too fast. First, make up your mind about the new pitch angle, say 2 degrees up. Then, look at the attitude indicator and adjust pitch to 2 degrees up. Only after that, you give the VSI a quick scan to verify your descend rate is indeed reduced. Do not adjust pitch by looking at the VSI. It will never work.

You may also be too ambitious by attempting to fly airliners in the sim before you have a solid piloting skill. Move up progressively. Fly on small planes first. Practice maneuvers, like steep turns. As your skill improves, slowly move up to faster and larger aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ this. also: a common mistake is to start disregarding crosswind when at low altitudes flying a jet; after disconnect it's common for beginners to turn nose heading to rwy heading. Also a common thing is to give input directly after disengagement even though the plane is perfectly trimmed, for some reason $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 12, 2017 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ @user Many autopilot systems do not fully trim the aircraft which may necessitate control input directly after disengagement. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Feb 13, 2017 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ While the pitch change technique you describe is generally good form, it is worth noting the following 1) It is unclear whether the simulated aircraft has a regular VSI or some type of IVSI. An IVIS will be far less prone to lag errors in wings-level flight than what you suggest here. 2) The attitude indicator alone tells you little to nothing about the future. But if the aircraft displays a flight path vector, that information does match what you describe, i.e. the actual direction aircraft is currently moving. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Feb 13, 2017 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters the AI technique is one of the things I learnt for transitioning to high performance aircraft. Flight path vectors are relatively rare, only found in military jets and some airliners with HUDs. A flight director would be useful, but if one's mind is not ahead of the plane, he will end up chasing it. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Feb 13, 2017 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @kevin Many turboprops and business jets have flight path vectors, such as the aircraft I fly. Unless I am missing something, the avionics in your profile pic have a FPV. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:58

Unless you are doing a full Cat III autoland approach, you can disconnect whenever it suits you or the company SOP. This might be at 100 feet on a Cat II approach. Older aircraft, usually only Cat I, can be twitchy on the ILS and passengers could be uncomfortable therefore it might be a good idea to disconnect at glide slope intercept. Us old stick and rudder guys would even disconnect at top of descent and hand fly down to the landing. Most modern airliners can be left on autopilot until visual contact with the runway is established, but over reliance on automation is a killer, see below.

Note: It is essential to maintain hand flying skills and not be reliant on automation as was demonstrated in the fatal crash in San Francisco.

Asiana Flight 214


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