In my 3,000+ hours of flight training, I have developed some tips and tricks to help people fly better. With teaching landings, I have 3 specific tips that will make smoother landings every time, guaranteed.
A wise flight instructor whom I would love to give credit to (but don’t know who it is!) once said that a good landing starts off with a good traffic pattern. So true! A good landing all begins with the setup. This is true for a VFR rectangular traffic pattern or an IFR instrument approach. Flying the proper speeds and being at the proper AGL altitudes helps immensely in making a good landing. Being at 600 feet AGL on a 1/2 mile final (or the alternative of 60 feet off the ground on a mile final!) makes it hard to make a good landing.
Proper Use & Understanding of Pitch and Power
Once flaps are used in the pattern, the plane is now on the back side of the power curve (or in the region of reverse command). Power is now being used to control the plane’s rate of descent while pitch is being used to control airspeed. The key is, both pitch and power work together, so if the pilot changes the power, he’ll also need to change the pitch and vice versa.
The common mistake I see here is when the airplane gets low on final, the pilot tends to (quite naturally) pitch up. All this does is bleed off airspeed and cause the airplane to sink faster. The proper input would be to add power, then adjust the pitch for airspeed.
Look Down the Runway
Now that we have gotten to the point of the round-out and touchdown, it’s the most important part. The best thing the pilot can do to make the best landing possible, is to look at the trees at the end of the runway. When I worked with college students, I told them to find the owl in the trees at the end of the runway.
The tendency is to stare at the pavement (or concrete) the whole way down to the landing. When a pilot’s eyes are fixated on the ground, this destroys his depth perception and causes a level off too low to the runway, resulting in a 3 point landing and/or a bounce.
By looking at the trees at the end of the runway, this gives the pilot much better depth perception and allows him to properly judge where to level off the airplane.
The question now is when should the pilot start looking at the trees? My recommendation is crossing the threshold of the runway. For some, it works better to start looking at the trees when turning final. Others, right before the level off. Regardless, find that owl!