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-   -   Controlling direction in the flare (https://www.pprune.org/private-flying/490773-controlling-direction-flare.html)

gallwood 17th Jul 2012 12:31

Controlling direction in the flare

I'm about three weeks in to circuits on my PPL. The last but one lesson I was making good approaches and some half decent landings. However, my last lesson was terrible. The approach seemed to go ok, but then at the last minute, during the flare, I would drift way off to the left. It was so frustrating :*.

Does anyone have any advice on how to control the direction or the a/c during the flare? Do I still use both aileron and rudder, or more rudder at this point?

My FI keeps telling me to just continue to fly the plane all the way down on to the runway.

Arrgg, I want to get back up there and sort this out.

Thanks for your advice.


mad_jock 17th Jul 2012 12:38

How many lessons have you had todate before entering the circuit?

Cows getting bigger 17th Jul 2012 12:49

... not the ones that covered effects of controls and slow flight. :)

gallwood, taking my glib hat off, you need to talk with your instructor. There are a number of things at play when in the flare, not least the effects of controls and a tendency to yaw at reduced airspeed. If he/she cannot describe to you why things are happening ("just fly the plane" is a pitiful answer) then I suggest you find yourself a new instructor.

B2N2 17th Jul 2012 12:59

Gall,welcome to the world of frustration in flight training.
Number 1; very important to understand and accept....everybody struggles with this one, there are no "natural pilots". Some people take less time but everybody struggles.

The cure is a little more elusive and difficult to describe.
Your FI is right, keep flying the aircraft, not only into the landing but till you are stationary on the taxiway.

What he (we) means by this is that you keep manipulating the flight controls till you are stationary. Rudder, elevator and ailerons.
Mentally don't think of landing as a different phase of flight, block it out and keep flying the airplane with idle power. eventually you will touch down in a nose high attitude since you tried to keep flying you kept increasing the angle of attack by increasing pitch till touchdown.

Mind you, don't keep pulling back till the aircraft stalls 10 feet above the runway, no keep flying it just above the runway and mentally tried to avoid touching down. Its a trick but it works.

The generation of lift is not linear (because of the drag curve) but think of it as this:
The average light airplane requires 60 knots of airflow to fly therefore at 30 knots you have half the lift and at 15 knots a quarter.
So at 30 knots you only have half the weight on the wheels or the airplane is still flying "half" .
Do you see know why you have to keep flying (manipulating the flight controls) all the way to stationary?
Even at taxi speeds you use the elevator to alleviate the weight of the engine on the nose wheel. The rudder and the elevator are also in the accelerated flow from the propeller so active to a very low speed.

With some aircraft you can "pop a wheelie" from a standing start because of the accelerating slipstream.
But that is a different lesson.................:ok:

"just fly the plane" is a pitiful answer
That's a bit harsh about a FI that neither of us knows.
Sometimes students just need to listen without questioning everything we say.
You don't always want to floor a student with 3 hours of theory with every question. Especially in the airplane.
Sometimes a "trust me just keep flying" should suffice.

riverrock83 17th Jul 2012 13:01

what do you mean by drift?

If your heading is changing, this could be due to the power reduction which needs to be balanced with rudder.
If you the aircraft is moving sideways away from the centre of the runway, there is likely to be a cross wind, which your instructor should teach you how to deal with (I understand there are a couple of ways this is taught so I don't want to confuse you here). It may be he hasn't taught you this yet, and so is trying to get you to land as if there wasn't a cross wind and not worry about hitting the centre line. I wont comment on whether this is a good idea or not...:oh:

gallwood 17th Jul 2012 14:09

thanks guys for your response so far.

The weather was light x wind, about 5 kts.

I guess with my post I was looking for the magic formula, but as B2N2 said, almost all people struggle with this one initially. I don't know if its normal but I think I tend to be cautious of using aileron so close to the ground - I'm sure I will get over it.

Thinking back to my lesson, I don't understand why I couldn't keep it tracking down that center line.

The500man 17th Jul 2012 14:21

Was the wind down the runway or slightly off? If you were crabbing or using wing down until the flare than that may explain it. Or it could be as simple as where you were looking or even if you were trying to account for sitting on the left and aiming slightly left?

I wouldn't be surprised if your next lesson is fine and you never know why it happened! Little things like this will still occur even after you get your license, so don't worry too much about it as long as it's safe(-ish!).

EDIT: Light winds can be fairly variable. Are there obstacles like trees along the runway? There are some places I've been to that you will suddenly get a blast of wind between a gap in the trees. It doesn't need to be much to upset your approach.

gallwood 17th Jul 2012 14:26

The wind was slightly off, there was a little crabbing required.

I want to get back up there now and try again :ok:

Pilot DAR 17th Jul 2012 17:25

Gallwood, This could sound patronizing, and it sure is not intended that way, but this is one of those things where you just gotta keep practicing. One day, you'll think you've got it mastered, and then you are at the beginning of having it mastered. You will benefit yourself with a bit of qualified taildragger training. Whomever trains you on one of those will be on you every moment to keep your heading and lateral position on the runway under perfect control.

Practice keeping your alignment to the extended runway centerline perfect from a way back, and yes, you don't stop flying, until the plane is not moving anymore. With the exception of low level mechanical turbulence, otherwise winds do not intensify as you descend. If you can keep it aligned with the runway on final, you should be able to keep it straight on the runway. Don't let it get away from you, and you won't have to get it back!

Like many pilots here, I have landed in crosswinds which exceeded the demonstrated crosswind capability of the type, in many types. My personal record is 37 gust to 43 knots 30 degrees off the runway heading in a Cessna 150, then 20 gusting to 26 knots direct crosswind, in a highly modified Cessna Caravan, with a large external load - during flight testing for that load. I'm sure that many Caravan pilots have exceeded that.

Fly the plane, don't let it fly you. The control is there for you to use, so make it work for you!

NorthSouth 17th Jul 2012 17:53

As above, don't get too bothered by apparent lack of progress at this stage. It happens to almost everyone. One day it'll click. I agree entirely with your instructor's "just fly the aeroplane" approach. It's very difficult - perhaps impossible - to TELL people how to land an aeroplane. You can only give them the tools to get the aircraft into a position where their judgement will get it on to the ground safely.

Are you in a side-by-side or a tandem aircraft? If the former, my only tip, from 11 years of instructing, is that, for reasons that don't seem to have been definitively established, the person in the left hand seat will usually think they are pointing the aircraft down the runway when in fact it's pointing significantly to the left and requires substantial inputs of right rudder. My experience of teaching circuits is that short final consists of saying "right rudder....right rudder.....right rudder". The student doesn't believe it because his eyes tell him no such thing is required - until he's over the grass.


Miken100 17th Jul 2012 18:02

There's been some good advice on here already so I'm not going to repeat that but I do question your relationship with your instructor.

This phase of flight is some theory and the rest is almost all skill... skills are learned with demonstration, practise, feedback, coaching (which is about dialogue not JFDI), more practise and your FI should be doing all of the above.

I agree that "Fly the Plane" is not a good enough answer - so whilst you can get some good tips and advice on here you need to discuss this more fully... if the FI says "Don't worry about this for now" and advises that you should concentrate on something else instead then fine (in other words we'll sort this out later).. but you implied a "put up and shut up" type of answer and this won't do!

I'm sure that with persistence and practise/coaching you will be fine... we've all been there at some stage - it can be very frustrating when you seem to go 'backwards' but that is all about learning new skills and is part of the deal. Have a look at Four stages of competence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Good luck and let us know when you can land on a pinpoint ;)


riverrock83 17th Jul 2012 21:20

Originally Posted by NorthSouth (Post 7300802)
Are you in a side-by-side or a tandem aircraft? If the former, my only tip, from 11 years of instructing, is that, for reasons that don't seem to have been definitively established, the person in the left hand seat will usually think they are pointing the aircraft down the runway when in fact it's pointing significantly to the left and requires substantial inputs of right rudder.

Is that not most likely because the student is aligning his head, the middle of the prop and the centre line with each other (or perhaps a less extreme point than the middle of the prop). A lesson I found useful was to taxi the plane straight, with the center line running underneath me, then getting it fixed in my head at what point on the cowling the line appeared at. I then treat that point as the point needed when lining up with the center line when touching down.
Worked for me :ok:

shumway76 18th Jul 2012 00:07

Shift your focus to the end of the runway while flaring, maybe that might help?

Halfbaked_Boy 18th Jul 2012 00:43

What the poster above me said - look to the far end of the runway, then as you anticipate the wheels touching down, use the rudder pedals to keep everything straight. Doing it this way will place the immediate vicinity into your peripheral vision and you may find you automatically compensate without thinking about it too much. That's what it will eventually become!

You're right to feel concerned about using aileron so close to the ground, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it. There's no golden rule book for landing an aeroplane, it is something you will pick up through practice, be critical of yourself for sure, but don't lose sleep over it.

Flying can be a bit of a black art at times, whether you have 50, 500 or 5,000 hours :)

piperboy84 18th Jul 2012 00:56


everybody struggles with this one, there are no "natural pilots"
My old FI used to say that "the only natural pilots are birds, and even they crash sometimes"

sevenstrokeroll 18th Jul 2012 01:53

you drift left

you are flying with your left hand on the stick

you get tired and your left hand drops

and the plane goes left

practice, practice, practice

go out to the field as close as you can ( on foot) and watch other landings

you would be surprised at how many pilots inadvertently put in a control movement without intention.

also, do you wear glasses?

you and your instructor need more work...and ask for a lesson with a different instructor. try making a box with the nose of the plane, keeping wings level, using rudder and get a better feel for things ( in flight at safe altitude)

also, refresh your knowledge of rudder useage and "P" factor for both takeoff ,climb, descent and landing

Pilot DAR 18th Jul 2012 02:24

I don't know if its normal but I think I tend to be cautious of using aileron so close to the ground - I'm sure I will get over it.
Yeah, you will...


Miken100 18th Jul 2012 05:05

Great photo DAR.... :)

Whopity 18th Jul 2012 08:01

Does anyone have any advice on how to control the direction or the a/c during the flare?
With your feet!

gallwood 18th Jul 2012 11:46

Thank you every one for the imense amount of feedback on my question. All your comments are going to be a big help to me.

My next lesson is on Saturday and I will be sure to incorporate many of your suggestions. If only I had found flying 20 years ago, I could have turned this in to my career. :D

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