# How to land using horizon?

I recently heard pilots discussing a landing technique that some instructors are now teaching.

To assist new pilots in flaring, they instruct the pilot to adjust their attention toward the far end of the runway or horizon. There was some discussion that it won't work for a pilot short in height. As they look toward the end of the runway or horizon they are suppose to use some type of reference, such as "the horizon expanding".

What is this technique for landing and how is it suppose to help?

Update: According to the "Rod Machado" YouTube video provided below, it is the runway width that is the primary reference, not the horizon or end of the runway. The pilot is viewing the end of the runway for peripheral vision of the width.

• This is the technique I was taught 10 years ago..
– Ben
Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 21:20
• Seat heights are adjustable. A 6 foot tall pilot and a 5'4" pilot should have their heads in the same place, and have the same external view by adjusting the seat position. Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 21:26
• Many if not most aircraft do not have height adjustment for the seats... Being 6'3" I have the opposite problem. Of the 20-30 aircraft I have flown over the last 45 years, only a couple newer Cessna had height adjustment. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 1:17
• I really don't see how either the runway width or looking at the end of the runway could be a reliable guide to landing, since they're so variable. Lengths go from a couple of thousand feet to a couple of miles, widths from not much wider than the wheel track to something I could probably land on crossways with a good headwind. And then there's dry lakes and such... Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:48
• @ jamesqf I understand and do not use this technique myself. But a good explanation of using "angles" is provided by Wayne Conrad below. I do know from computer graphics programming and the obvious real video provided by Rod Machado that the closer you get to an object (in this case runway width) it will increase in size exponentially. I do see merit in students using this as a start, but I think most will eventually "get the instinctive feel for it" and be less dependent on it. Who knows? I am going to give it a try next spring when I fly again. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 22:57

## 5 Answers

I think the GIST here is:

Look far ahead. Don't look at whatever is directly in front of you.

It's the same as driving. If one looks at the piece of concrete just meters ahead, then the barricade will "pop out in front suddenly" or the bumper of the car is "in your face out of nowhere".

Our peripheral vision will guide us to wherever we want. It is natural and in-born, biologically. You just need to know where to look.

It depends on the student. That guidance is used to teach students the art of flying the roundout in order to better teach the how to evaluate their height above the surface. Care must be taken there as excess focus at the far end of the runway can result in a high round out resulting in a very firm touchdown or worse. The actual technique of evaluating your height above the runway just comes with experience and several hundred landings and can be altered by different visual perceptions like runway width, grade, etc.

I personally find that it is useful to focus about 200 ft down the unwary in front of you while evaluating your height based on this as well as the end of the runway and the sides using your peripheral vision. It can help to then shift focus to the end of the runway during the roundout as most of your field of vision will be blocked during the roundout, particularly in 3-point landings in tailwheel airplanes. Again sight picture depends on the aircraft, runway and several other factors.

Longtime CFI Rod Machado developed a really good method for new pilots to evaluate flare height based upon runway geometry that works very well for light aircraft. Using this method can be a big help during your formative training, as you develop a good sight picture which can aid you in future landings in other types of airplanes.

• Thanks, I didn't know Rod had his videos available on the internet and I will download all of them. I tried this on my flight sim and it really helps because the sim does not provide depth perception. I have always "flattened" the air plane flight out at 5ft and let it settle but that is hard to do at night. After 2500hrs of flying, I am still learning "student" things! (Students don't appreciate how much things have improved since my license in 1975 :( Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 21:31
• Highly recommended for flight training, dude. He publishes really good stuff. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 21:32
• He also answered my first impression (made me think this had no merit) that this doesn't work for larger aircraft because of the height of the cockpit above ground. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 21:35

This is how I was taught to land and perhaps the broader way to put it is,

Look out at the end of the runway or horizon and keep that sight picture in your head when landing

As noted in the comments seats are often adjustable or you can use a thin cushion to add some height if you need it. But even at that everyone will have a slightly different sight picture when landing and its important to keep that consistent. A point like the far threshold or horizon (if your airport is in a generally level area) provides a nice reference for you to keep your flair pitch consistent and repeatable.

Here's how my flight instructor explained it to me.

Human depth perception, beyond a very short distance, is very poor. If you are looking at the runway directly ahead of your plane, it is difficult to judge your height, or changes in your height, with enough precision to make a good landing.

However, your ability to judge angles is very sensitive. If you are looking down the runway, then you can see both the horizon and the runway edges. The runway edges and the horizon have angular relationships that vary depending upon your height. This angle, and changes to it, are easy to see.

Therefore, by focusing down the runway, you are exchanging a poor mechanism for judging height--depth perception--for a better mechanism--angle perception.

In addition to Dave's correct answer about holding a consistent pitch attitude through touchdown, it also helps new pilots to notice and eliminate drift. Once you have a few thousand hours you don't even realize you're doing it, but for a beginning pilot it's hard to make the correct inputs of aileron to correct sideslip and rudder to align the longitudinal axis of the airplane with the centerline of the runway simultaneously (heck, it's even hard to type!).

By looking out at the far end of the runway a beginning pilot gets a better idea of how much rudder and aileron input is required.