I am learning to fly an Ikarus-C42. The instructor I have recommends to all students that they land without flaps, because it is less to think about and because it gives you more airspeed, thus less chance of stalling or losing control on approach.

Now, I'm not one to second guess someone much more experienced than me, but I do have to ask - is this truly best practice?

I have conducted some reading on the subject and it seems that not using flaps and the consequent high speed landings performed by many students is one of the main reasons for the high incident rate that involve overshooting runways (not to mention the excessive wear on the brakes). Additionally, it doesn't seem to prep you well for the 'real world'. I can't imagine telling your F.O on a 737 'Don't worry about flaps today, it's too much to think about' :D

  • 24
    $\begingroup$ I think at least one answer should say "If offered the choice between doing what your instructor says, and what some guys on the internet say, go with your instructor." $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth I think mine comes fairly close. I didn't use those exact words, but the sentiment is there. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Glad to see this question asked. Even as a new glider student, I already found the landing procedure overwhelming: turn, speed, trim, flap, brake, watch for runway... all at the same time. $\endgroup$
    – gadfly
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 0:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Remember not to get too close the sun! :) $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ The "thus less chance of stalling" is not a valid rationale (but workload is). With flaps, the stall speed is lower, so by flying slower you are not closer to stall. The approach speeds are selected with the stall margin as a primary factor, so if you obey the prescribed speeds you should be equally safe in this regard. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 0:54

3 Answers 3


You don't say which variant you're flying, but the C42B is perfectly capable of both taking off and landing with zero flaps on a reasonable-length runway. I've done it on several occasions with huge margin even for touch-and-gos on my home field's 1300 m asphalt runway. You do need to adjust the angle of attack (via pitch), but if you're flying the airspeed you'll basically be doing that anyway, so no big deal.

Extending flaps give you better flying characteristics at low airspeed, but increases drag. If you're flying the approach at reasonably high speed, then you likely don't particularly need the extra lift, and in fact it might even be detrimental especially once you're wheels on runway and trying to slow down. With flaps extended, you also need to monitor your airspeed more closely to make sure you aren't exceeding VFE.

On the flip (flap?) side, the C42 flaps lever manipulates the flaps directly -- it's just a cable going through the fuselage. Any time you're handling the lever, you are fighting directly against the airflow around the wing, with no help from e.g. elevator trim, let alone hydraulics or even electrics. I know that the effects of this came as a bit of a surprise for me the first few times I retracted flaps in flight; it's very easy to end up with a rough flaps retraction if you aren't prepared for the force involved.

You're supposed to be flying the airplane all the way to the ground, and only bleed off the flying airspeed very late during the landing, in the flare when you should end up at stall speed with the wheels just barely above the runway.

It's possible that your instructor feels that the added complexity of also handling the flaps lever (and the resultant drag changes) simply may risk being overwhelming at first. It's not like there isn't already a lot going on during a standard traffic pattern coming in to land; there's airspeed, altitude, auxiliary pump, carb heat, scanning for traffic, radio communications, keeping good tabs on your position relative to the runway, lining up for final approach mind the wind, making sure your turns are coordinated, during crosswind landings the final turn to align the airplane (as opposed to the direction of travel) with the runway, ...

Your instructor likely has a plan for how to introduce the use of flaps during landing; you are most likely going to need them by the time you're doing short-field work, if not before. You also can, and should, discuss with your instructor anything where you don't feel that you understand the instructor's rationale. Asking strangers on the Internet for advice is fine, and can provide additional insight (which can be quite valuable!), but should never be a replacement for asking your instructor.

high incident rate that involve overshooting runways

If you're too far along the runway to land safely, just go around and make another attempt. (Landing long is fine, just annoying if you need to taxi all the way back; overshooting the runway is not.) It's good practice for everything except the flare, braking and taxiing, and it's good practice for go-around procedures. I've made the decision to go around in situations that very likely were perfectly fixable (things like being too high on final, or drifting to the side while still a moderate distance out on final) but I am of the opinion that it's better to go around and do it right, than try to press on when things are stacking up against you, especially if you're new. With experience, you'll learn what can be fixed in-place and what truly warrants a go-around.

Just make sure you tell the instructor what you're doing. Crew resource management isn't a big focus in single-pilot light aircraft, since you'll mostly be flying by yourself and certainly a lot of the time without another pilot in the other seat, but I find it's a good idea to follow the general principles anyway.

Additionally, it doesn't seem to prep you well for the 'real world'. I can't imagine telling your F.O on a 737 'Don't worry about flaps today, it's too much to think about' :D

I know you added a smiley, but it's no joking matter. Don't treat, or think of, the C42 like a commercial jetliner. Don't think learning to fly a C42 will allow you to just drop into the cockpit of a jetliner (even a realistically simulated one) and fly the latter. It isn't, it will never be, it won't, and the C42 handles quite differently from the big iron. That doesn't make the C42 any less "real world".

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Thankyou for the answer, much appreciated. The (flap?) side made me laugh. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 15:09

It's an unusual practice but, in view of the Ikarus's very light control forces combined with a heavy and awkward flap lever, I am going to guess that the instructor has found that students have difficulty controlling the airplane's pitch and trim while manhandling the flap handle and it's less grief during initial training to simply leave flaps out of it until the student's skill progresses. The very light wing loading and small flap area means there is not a huge difference in flaps up flaps down performance, so it's not so big a deal compared to say a 152, where landing flapless is considered a more advanced exercise.

Their use will in introduced in a few lessons.


The Ikarus C42 is much lighter than a comparable Cessna 152, with a much lower stall speed, even with no flaps. If there is ample room to land, keeping it simple may be best for now. However, busy instructors sometimes may miss something that is very important to you. So, if you want to include flaps in your flying, let them know and include it next time out. Smaller, lighter planes many times simply do not need them.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .