Happy Landings

Offering an unsolicited landing critique on every flight is an American pastime. Maybe the critical process should be modified a little so everyone can be more realistic and seem smarter to the pilots.

An old adage says  “Any landing you can walk away from is a good one”.  Intuitively there is some truth to this since we occasionally hear about one in the news that is much uglier. Actually, any landing where you can use the airplane again is pretty good, use it again today even better, and take off again within the hour …great.

How should we judge a landing then? From the back of the airplane you can judge the landing fairly well once you know what to watch for.

First of all smooth landings on a wet runway do not count. There is little friction when touching down on a wet runway so even a moderate “thumper” seems nice.

The touch down point is the first important judgement criteria. Too short of a landing is bad. Really bad. As in “Dang, we nearly wrecked bad”.  Big airplanes have a nasty habit of being slow to respond in the event of a “sinking spell”.  This is why the touchdown aim point is about a thousand feet down the runway.  We  shouldn’t touch down “on the numbers”. This counts points big off even if the landing is really smooth.

Too long of a landing is always bad for obvious reasons. Way too long of a landing isn’t a landing at all since the airplane probably won’t be used again.

The brakes are the main thing that stop the airplane, when the wheels are in the air the brakes aren’t doing anything. Watch for the big white rectangle on the runway. When the wheels touch down at this point it COULD be a good landing if it is at the correct speed.  Side loads should be at a minimum and the transition to braking from thrust reverse should be smooth.

If the touch down is smooth too it was  really good.

Another criteria we judge is alignment.  If the airplane is all off to one side or the other points should be taken off.

If the runway is short and wet, or contaminated with snow the best landing might be a smack em whack em. This is my term for intentionally smacking the airplane on the ground, yanking the speedbrakes out while applying max braking and reverse thrust. Not a smooth landing at all but a very “good” one.

Some points should be counted off if a rough transition is made from thrust reverser use to braking. A steady firm deceleration id what we shoot for.

Please keep in mind that the landing is only a small (if important) part of the flight and a smooth touch down is not the most important part of the landing.

Smooth can even be bad. May all of yours be happy.


2 Responses to “Happy Landings”

  1. Yay! More technicalities like this please!

  2. I had one landing that fah-reaked me out. I was pretty sure we were going to maybe die. It felt as though we came in much faster than usual, and then when we hit the ground the plane slid back and forth a little. I really thought about making fun of the pilot on the way out, but decided that he probably already knew it was a wonky landing. Either that or he was a punk Tom Cruise maverick type and would just laugh at me for being scared.

    Hahaha they should totally make a movie about a renegade pilot. Like those cop movies? “Damn it man, you’re DANGEROUS! We have procedures!”

    “Screw procedures. I’m the best damned pilot we’ve got and you know it.”

    Oooh and then! The copilot could be a DOG. And the pilot doesn’t like dogs. But this one saves his life by grabbing the controls when he blacks out on a steep descent. After that they are buddies.

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