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The Art of the Smooth Landing: Tips and Tricks for Pilots

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Landing an aircraft can be a nerve-wracking experience for even the most experienced pilots. It's a critical phase of flight that requires skill, knowledge, and practice. However, with a little bit of humour and a whole lot of know-how, you can master the art of the smooth landing. In this article, we'll take a look at some common mistakes pilots make when landing, and provide tips and advice on how to improve your landing skills and become the envy of the skies.

Mistake 1: Not Properly Configuring the Aircraft.

One of the most common mistakes pilots make is not properly configuring the aircraft before landing. This includes not setting the flaps and gear in the correct position, and not properly trimming the aircraft. Imagine showing up to a fancy dinner party in your pyjamas, that's what landing an aircraft without properly configuring it feels like. Don't be that pilot, take the time to properly set up your aircraft before landing.

Mistake 2: Not Maintaining the Correct Approach Speed.

Another common mistake is not maintaining the correct approach speed. Pilots often fly too fast or too slow on approach, which can lead to a hard or unstable landing. It's like trying to walk down a flight of stairs in roller skates, you're either going to fall or fly (and not in the good way). Maintaining the correct approach speed is crucial for a smooth landing.

Mistake 3: Not Maintaining the Correct Descent Rate.

Pilots often descend too quickly or too slowly on approach, which can lead to a poor landing. It's like trying to jump off a diving board, if you don't jump at the right time, you're going to belly flop. Maintaining the correct descent rate is crucial for a smooth landing.

Piper PA28 Landing
A stable approach is key!

A stable approach is a consistent descent towards the runway, with the aircraft's speed, configuration, and descent rate all within acceptable limits for a safe landing. The pilot maintains control of the aircraft and makes necessary adjustments throughout the approach to ensure a smooth and safe landing. A stable approach is important because it helps to minimise the risks associated with landing, such as a hard landing or a stall.

A stable approach is essential for a safe landing. The pilot should be able to control the speed, altitude and trajectory of the aircraft, and maintain the correct approach path to the runway. A stable approach is a key skill that pilots must master and it is an important part of training, as it helps pilots to understand the aircraft's capabilities, limitations and how to fly it safely. It also helps to prevent runway excursions and ensures a smooth touchdown on the runway.

Mistake 4: Not Maintaining the Correct Alignment with the Runway.

Pilots often drift left or right of the centerline on approach, which can lead to a poor landing. It's like trying to parallel park, if you're not lined up just right, you're going to end up on the sidewalk. Maintaining the correct alignment with the runway is crucial for a smooth landing.

Mistake 5: Not Making the Proper Radio Calls

Pilot making radio calls before landing

Pilots often forget to make the proper radio calls, such as "inbound" or "final" calls, which can lead to confusion and potential accidents. It's like trying to order at a drive-thru without stopping at the microphone, you're just going to end up confused and with the wrong order. Making the proper radio calls is crucial for a good landing.

Tips to Improve:

Practice, practice, practice: The most important thing you can do to improve your landing skills is to practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you'll become with the landing process.

Use a checklist:

Before every landing, make sure to run through a checklist of all the steps involved in landing. This will help you ensure that you've properly configured the aircraft and that you're ready for landing.

Fly the aircraft, not the instruments:

It's easy to get caught up in the instruments and forget about flying the aircraft. Remember, the instruments are there to help you fly the aircraft, not to fly the aircraft for you.

Cessna 182 cockpit
Fly the aircraft, not the instruments

Focus on one thing at a time:

Landing an aircraft requires a lot of attention and focus. Try to focus on one thing at a time, such as maintaining the correct approach speed or alignment with the runway. Don't try to multitask while landing, it's like trying to text and drive, it's just not safe.

Get feedback:

After every landing, ask for feedback from your instructor or other pilots. This will help you understand what you're doing well and what you need to improve. It's like getting a critique from an art teacher, it helps you see what you're doing right and where you can improve.

Laugh at yourself:

Remember, everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. If you make a mistake during a landing, don't beat yourself up about it. Laugh it off and use it as a learning opportunity. It's like falling on the ice, it's going to happen but it's also funny.

Now let's discuss the all critical part - the flare.

Flaring an aircraft for landing is a delicate task that requires precision and skill, similar to hitting a bullseye with a dart. It's the final step before landing that will make or break a smooth touchdown. We've all had good ones and bad ones but for some reason, there's always an audience on the ground for the bad ones yet nobody sees the good ones. But don't let that discourage you! With a heaping helping of knowledge, you can master the art of flaring and become the envy of all who take to the skies.

Tip 1: Timing is Everything

Timing is crucial when it comes to flaring for landing. You want to initiate the flare at the right time, not too early and not too late. It's like trying to catch a frisbee, if you start running too early, you'll miss it and if you start running too late, you'll get hit in the face.

Tip 2: Keep it Level

When flaring, it's important to keep the aircraft level. If the nose is too high or too low, it can lead to a hard or unstable landing. It's like trying to balance a spoon on your nose, if you tilt your head too much, the spoon will fall.

Tip 3: Keep it Slow

Flaring for landing is not a race, you want to do it slowly and steadily. It's like trying to walk on a tightrope, if you go too fast, you'll fall.

Cessna 172 landing
Take your time to get the right nose attitude for landing

Tip 4: Use the Rudder

Don't forget to use the rudder when flaring for landing. You must make sure the plane is straight before touching down and you must keep it straight when it's on the ground.

Tip 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

The most important thing you can do to improve your flaring skills is to practice. It's like trying to juggle, the more you practice, the better you'll get.

Tip 6: Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you're having trouble with flaring, don't be afraid to ask for help. It's like trying to fix a leaky faucet, you can try to do it yourself but sometimes it's best to call a plumber.

Tip 7: Have Fun

Most importantly, have fun with it. Landing an aircraft is an incredible experience and mastering the art of flaring for landing is just another step in the journey of being a pilot. It's like trying to climb a mountain, it's challenging but the view from the top is worth it.


In conclusion, landing an aircraft is a critical phase of flight that requires skill, knowledge, and practice. By understanding common mistakes and implementing the tips and advice outlined in this article, you'll be well on your way to becoming a better pilot and performing safe, smooth landings every time. And remember, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the ride!

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