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During rollout upon touching down, I'd often find myself veering off the runway centreline to the left. Every time I input rudder, I have this feeling that I am getting pulled out of the turn (while that is normal just like turning round a corner at high speeds in a car), and that the aircraft might just flip over. But you see I know my limitations of the car, and that it won't flip unless I yank the steering wheel.

My instructors tell me to just simply keep my feet active, but it's the fear of too much input that will cause me to lose directional control of my aircraft.

Upon touching with my main wheels, to maintain centreline, should I just really apply rudder without fear, even though I feel, and visually believe, that I am going to flip over?

What correct techniques should one apply to keep the aircraft straight during the rollout?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is there always a right crosswind when this happens, or are you veering left even when there's a left or no crosswind? Or do you veer right in a left crosswind? $\endgroup$ – StephenS Feb 2 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ Just to calm your fear, more lost control incidents happen as a consequence of too liitle rudder work than too much rudder work. $\endgroup$ – Wirewrap Feb 2 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ You might benefit from practicing taxiing along a line, starting out slow to get a feel for how the plane responds to the rudder, and later moving to higher speeds as you build confidence. $\endgroup$ – Pete Becker Feb 2 at 19:14
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My guess here would be that you are not truly tracking the centerline of the runway on final or on roundout. There’s an easy way to solve that when flying final: if the runway centerline appears pure vertical from your perspective in the airplane while stationary in your field of view, you are tracking the centerline. If it has a slight angle to it or is translating, then you’re not totally on centerline.

The differences can be subtle, but can lead to flying a serpentine track toward the runway on final, during roundout, and during ground roll. It can also result in a touchdown with a slight drift to it which indicates poor piloting technique.

To counter this, first, remember to get the final approach stabilized ie on centerline, on glidepath, and on airspeed as soon as possible after rolling out from the base to final turn. Remember the more corrections you need to make to do this closer to the runway threshold, the more difficult the approach becomes and the more likely errors in technique will grow unchecked. Once on a stable final approach, observe the runway centerline and judge if it is a vertical, straight line. If so, you’re tracking straight down the centerline. If not, use shallow, coordinated turns to align the airplane so. This technique will also work when flying a crabbed final in crosswind conditions.

As you roundout, remember you are in slow flight at an increased AoA, so the propeller will tend to pull the airplane’s nose to the left. Use additional right rudder to prevent this and track straight.

After touchdown, use quick precise feetwork for rudder inputs - think “happy feet happy feet happy feet” - to track centerline. Also, if doing a crosswind landing, DON’T RELAX AILERON PRESSURE AFTER TOUCHDOWN or the airplane will tend to veer off centerline rapidly. Remember, fly the airplane all the way through the landing, including the complete rollout.

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The chance of flipping due to too much rudder is a very real concern, and perfectly valid. Flipping can happen quite suddenly due to crosswinds, so you are right to be cautious.

My advice: On landing, make sure you hold full back elevator. Many students have a tendency to think they've landed the plane, and then let go of the aerodynamic surfaces like the elevator. Pilots have a saying, "Fly the plane all the way to the gate!" Never treat the plane like a car: It is always "flying", even on the ground.

Holding the elevator full-back after landing takes a lot of pressure off the nose wheel, which makes steering easier and the plane more stable. It also provides a lot of aerodynamic breaking (you have a large metal board sticking up into the wind) which slows the plane down a lot, in a stable, safe manner.

Also, don't necessarily try to stick to the centerline like glue. If you try too hard, you may make drastic and sudden rudder changes which can flip the plane. Instead, work on constantly adjusting towards the centerline. If you're off too the left, use right rudder to aim back towards the centerline; not to hit the centerline immediately, but to adjust your course towards it over the next 2 seconds. Then re-evaluate, and adjust your course closer to the centerline again, never actually getting 100% on the line, but always moving closer and closer to it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great advice abelenky, thank you so much for filling in the knowledge void! Gonna try it out the next dual check and have my instructor reassess my skills. $\endgroup$ – shogunnyan Feb 2 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Why with the nose gear off the ground, better control is possible? Can you expand on that part? Thanks. $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Feb 2 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1: The nose gear won't be off the ground, it will just have less pressure/force on it. The oleo strut won't be compressed, and the wheel will have an easier time turning side-to-side smoothly. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Feb 2 at 4:12
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"Trikes" can flip forward left or right, which is why many people prefer "quads" (or having the single wheel in the rear). However, with 2 main wheels down only rudder input will still swing the nose left or right with little danger of flipping.

When you are at landing speed and after mains touch down, the rudder is your friend, use it. Very good advice to hold nose gear off while your are slowing down. If you are slightly off center, continue controlling the aircraft as it slows down (this includes aileron inputs too) and keep "flying" the plane until it rolls to a complete stop.

But abrupt inputs or sharp swerves are not needed. Easy does it, and differential braking is also helpful. As you gain experience, you will feel more comfortable with its limits.

I would not rule out a taxiing lesson to test and refine your ground control techniques.

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  • $\begingroup$ Differential braking during rollout sounds scary to me, and might induce a sharp swerve. During the roll along the runway, wouldn’t it be better to apply equal braking pressure until you’re ready to turn off into the taxiway? $\endgroup$ – shogunnyan Feb 2 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely, as a matter of fact I always made "heels on the floor" part of my check list before taking off. Differential braking is useful once you are down to around 5 mph to help turn. But hey, if the rudder starts to flip you over, then opposite rudder! (Rudder away from trouble). But one writer here really hit on a good solution, think centerline on your final, the sooner you line up with it the easier it will be. You can always go around if you are off. $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni Feb 2 at 4:50

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