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From the Desk of the Chief


Jesse Gamueda, Chief Pilot WVFC


Landings, Landings, Landings!

After the Asianna accident at San Francisco airport last month, I feel it appropriate to touch on the subject where the majority of accidents occur! 

In certain studies, landings comprise 50% of all accidents.  So, it’s definitely a hot topic issue.

Certain fundamentals are associated with landings that we need to be aware of.  Approach speed is an issue which we’ve discussed before.  Another is CFIT! CFIT is becoming more common in all aspects of flying.  Literally it stands for “controlled flight into terrain”.  Around the club this is translated into, taking a perfectly good plane and flying it into the ground. 

So here are a couple of things that we as GA pilots can start watching for!


If your airspeed is off even a little bit either side of desired you’re going to land short or long.  Let’s say the POH calls for 60-70 knots on approach.  If we fly that approach at 55 knots, we don’t have much room for adjusting speed close to the ground.  With the addition of power in ground effect, you’re going to glide, balloon, or float down the runway.  However don’t think that the addition of power is not recommended.  I would much rather have you go around.

With too much airspeed, 75 knots, manny students/pilots I know will attempt to force the aircraft into landing.  This is where you get the typical porpoising or the bounce off of the runway.  In either case, it’s happening extremely fast and before you know it, you’ve messed up your energy management completely!   And again, I would rather have you go around! 

If then we take that same aircraft and fly the approach at 65 knots on target airspeed, this allows us to transition from the approach to a flare and touchdown in the most appropriate manner as possible.  We don’t misuse our energy management.

During slow speed we get more of a thump onto the asphalt, and energy is directed into the runway.  A fast approach yields the opposite.  When we transition from an approach to a flare, the aircraft still has energy and momentum and requires us to use more runway than we want.  When we are right on airspeed, we can transition from approach to flare and then energy dissipation takes its course.  We dissipate energy ahead, just a touch into the ground and this is where we feel the greaser! 

As flight instructors we try and develop you’re landing skills putting you into as many different types of situations as possible.  That way you can learn to correct appropriately when confronted with an unusual situation.

VASI / PAPI – Visual approach slope indicators and Precision approach path indicators: 

These are an enormous help when aiding you in your approach to the airport.  We are shooting for red over white.  This tells you that you are right on the glide path required to be in a safe position to land the aircraft on the runway without being high or low.  In addition, a white over white indication will tell you that you are going to use too much runway when you bring the power to idle.  A red over red indication is going to tell you that you may land short of the runway or maybe even take out some runway lights at the approach end of the airport, or maybe not even make the runway.

As always, there are numerous other topics that could be discussed when speaking of landings!  The problem is, how many items do we want to discuss, how many will you remember, and how long do we want to make this article before I lose your interest!

In closing, I’ve given you two great tools that you should always be using when flying stabilized approaches at San Carlos and Palo Alto! The length of these runways makes it even more important that at least these two rules are used when trying to make a safe landing.  And I disagree with the adage that any landing you walk away from is a good landing!  Make it a point to use all the fundamentals available and the rest will take care of itself.  Of course, practice makes perfect!