I'm still learning ground theory and have only flown in simulators (P3D v3 Academic). For a long time, I've been trying to properly flare single engine aircraft but have mostly failed. I even watched a video on youtube made by a certain flight instructor that said that the smaller airplanes like a Cessna 172 and Mooney acclaim don't flare - they "transition" just to make sure the rear gears touch down first.

However, I recently invented/discovered a trick that let me get a nice flared touch down while flying one of these aircraft (in P3D): as I approached the runway, I had the nose pointed down (or straight, as required) but as I was about to reach the threshold, with my speed somewhere around 50 knots, I reduced the speed (sometimes almost pulling the throttle to IDLE) and pitched up. In that condition, the airplane would tend to fall rather than go up and since the aircraft's height is just around 20 - 50 FT, the impact, I thought, would not be fatal.

However, I realized that I was essentially stalling the aircraft (purposely) and I even got a stall warning (though it obviously lasted for about 3 secs). And note: since I'm saying "STALL", I mean to say that the aircraft does cover some (significant) horizontal distance stalling before touching down. I know it's obvious to let the airplane sink a little by synchronizing the thrust and pitch but what i am talking about here is essentially something like a "flared approach", a nose-up approach like what usually jet airliners do.

As far as I know, a stall situation is usually a bad one. However, I was thinking that it might be okay if the pilot knew what he/she was doing and still had control while purposely stalling the aircraft. But I'm confused since I haven't flown a real bird yet.

So, my question is, is it okay to stall a small aircraft for the sake of a good flare?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: What is the best method to time your round out or flare in Cessna 172? $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Sep 27 '19 at 9:02
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    $\begingroup$ @papamike99 You may wish to invest the time flying with an instructor. There are "short field" techniques, coming in slower (and more nose high). However, gusts and wind gradients can make doing this extremely dangerous. "Rounding out" involves pulling the elevator, which can stall the aircraft (and crash it). Much safer to (for example) approach 65 knots, round at 65 knots (10-15 feet off runway), flare down to 50 knots (stall warning comes on), settle onto runway. You don't have to stall to settle, just reduce AOA (pitch) slightly. $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni Sep 27 '19 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ Anecdotally, I often hear the stall warner just before touchdown in a PA28 or C172. Its not really much to worry about in those sort of trainer aircraft. The horn goes off a good few knots before the wings actually stall and the nose drops. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 27 '19 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertDiGiovanni Thank you for the helpful words. I will soon go to a flight school and, at present, am simply trying to make sense of what I learned theoretically, in the simulator. $\endgroup$ – PapaMike99 Sep 27 '19 at 13:45

"To get a good flare". Never heard of pilots talking about "wow, I had a great flare on that landing!", although a very famous test pilot really had a beauty landing the XF-92A, reducing landing speed from around 160 to 67 mph.

So why do we flare? What is a flare?

"Flaring" is increasing AOA to MAINTAIN lift as the plane slows down.

Why do we slow down as much as possible before landing?

Too fast and the plane will "bounce". Bouncing is not a major problem if it is on the main gear (and not too hard). Bouncing the nose gear can be disasterous. Since you have a lower AOA for the same lift when faster, risk of bouncing the nose gear is greater. For taildragger, the risk is prop strike.

So you flare to increase AOA after rounding out and prior to touchdown, reducing speed and increasing AOA.

Do you need to stall to get a good flare? NO!

Does the stall warning mean I'm stalled? Try it at altitude first. Generally they are set a few knots ABOVE stall, and it is normal to hear it as you touch down. Know your plane.

Finally, "round out" at approach speed (you don't want to stall here), then reduce throttle and pitch up (flare). The trick is to hold it a few feet off the runway as speed decreases and AOA increases. You are now flaring!

Actually landing, well, everyone has their own ideas. In a 172, I could just start to feel the seat of my pants drop. At that point, back pressure on the yolk was relaxed just a tiny bit (slightly reducing AOA and lift), and the plane would settle onto the runway.

Flaring as all about speed control. Keep it safe.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer, Robert. I see that the priority is not to get a good looking flare but to have a steady approach and touch down (and making sure the rear gears touch down first). Just one thing though: what exactly do you mean by "round out"? $\endgroup$ – PapaMike99 Sep 27 '19 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ "Round out" is bringing the plane level (stopping your descent) a few feet over the runway, prior to flaring and landing. $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni Sep 27 '19 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ To prop strike a taildragger you have to be going really really fast. When flying TDs I prefer to "wheel land" them, tail high, and when you do that you actually fly down to a foot or so above the surface, applying just enough pitch to stop the descent, then instead of holding the nose up with increasing elevator, you PUSH to plant the mains, and keep pushing to hold the tail up until you slow down. This affords way more control in gusty conditions and xwinds. $\endgroup$ – John K Sep 27 '19 at 12:32

In my experience the best altitude for a fully stalled landing is about 1 inch. Seriously though, the method I use is to fly as close as I can to the ground without touching down with practically no throttle and finally reducing the remaining throttle whilst maintaining the height above the ground by increasing the angle of attack until it finally stalls and drops that last few inches onto the ground. It's difficult to get right but if you land prematurely it's not the end of the world, but if you use too much elevator too soon you will balloon (increase height) and you don't want to stall from there, apply a bit a power and try again. I would suggest paracticing by flying as close to the runway as you can without touching it, using throttle and attitude to remain just above the stall, using the end of the runway as your reference (v. important), climb out, do a circuit and trying again until it 'click's. It all depends on the aircraft and wind conditions, but if you're flying a light aircraft without a significant cross wind, this is pretty much the best way and eventually you'll be able to maintain a few inches just above the stall and then close the throttle to settle fully stalled onto the ground. If it's done right your stick/control column should be fully back. As I say this is my experience and I know there are people who would vehemently disagee, but it works for me.

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    $\begingroup$ Just to be sure, you do this in the real world or in the sim? $\endgroup$ – PapaMike99 Sep 27 '19 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ That's a bit unnecessary PapaMike99. I fly real aircraft in the uk and have had a pilot's licence for about 20 years. I don't fly that regularly admittedly but I'm giving my opinion in good faith, take it or leave it. I have never used a sim - I don't play computer games at all and I'm close to retirement age. $\endgroup$ – Phil Sep 27 '19 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ Phil, I am extremely sorry if my comment sounded disrespectful. I am simply looking forward to gaining knowledge and just wanted to know how much real world influence your knowledge had. I absolutely appreciate you taking the time to answer my amateur question; it's just that I am quite confused right now after reading various opinions from different people, so am a little obsessed with verifying the authenticity of statements at the moment. I once again apologize and sincerely thank you for your answer. :-) $\endgroup$ – PapaMike99 Sep 27 '19 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ I had considered being "vehement", but easing out the last bit of throttle before settling is a good idea. Throttle control can really "fine tune" things, as it's control is more precise. Good answer! $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni Sep 27 '19 at 14:08

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