Most Dangerous Landing Mistakes Landing is the most dangerous moment for any pilot.

Skids off the runway, collapsed landing gear, wing tip strikes, ground-loops… all are rooted in three fundamental mistakes. How these mistakes cause such horrendous problems is not always obvious. As a brash young private pilot with more confidence than ability I landed a Cessna 172 with three of my friends at a small, friendly airport in Northern California. I greased that landing on. I really felt cocky. My second landing (just a moment later) was not as smooth; a gust picked me up and put me down – on the taxiway. I will never forget the smirk on the face of the pilot taxiing in the opposite direction as he held short for me to exit onto the ramp. I had a hard time meeting his eyes when I turned off in front of him. I made up some half baked explanation for my passengers. I had just made the three dumbest blunders possible in that approach. I could not think about much of anything else until I understood what I had done wrong and what I had to do differently to keep it from happening a second time. I found out that the National Transportation Safety Board writes that forty five percent of the weather related accidents are caused by wind gusts and crosswinds. It seems like more to me. I want to tell everyone who will listen about some techniques that will keep a pilot from getting into trouble in the first place. Before I can do that, I would like to explore the causes with you. A wind gust, no matter how strong, cannot lift you off the runway if you have the proper angle of attack after landing. That was one of the mistakes I had made. By focusing on a smooth landing, I had landed at a shallow enough angle that the sudden increase in lift put me back in the air again. You can place the wing at two different angles relative to the wind to keep it from developing lift at any speed. If the wing is level, it will not produce lift. If the wing is pitched up so high that it is stalled, it cannot produce lift. So if I had held the airplane off of the runway until it landed regardless of how hard I kept it from landing, then it would have stalled and the gust would have left me on the ground. Once I let the nose down, the angle of attack is too low for a gust to pick me up. But what about the crosswind that carried me to the parallel taxiway? A crosswind takes a plane off the runway because the pilot is not slipping into the wind as fast as the wind is blowing across the runway or because the landing gear does not have enough traction to keep the airplane from sliding sideways. That is why I have always landed using crosswind landing techniques. Keeping the airplane pointed down the runway with rudder pedals, and keeping the airplane over the runway’s centerline with ailerons, sets you up for a safe landing. I absolutely guarantee that you will stay in the middle of the runway after you land. This is cross controlling. Landing too fast or too far down the runway is always caused by the same mistake: failing to control the approach glide. The list of things that can, and often do go wrong because of a botched approach glide is almost endless. Controlling the approach glide is quite easy to do. Just remember two important points and keep them in mind as you approach the runway. First is that an airplane’s airspeed responds much faster to changes in pitch attitude than to changes in power. Second is that the path an airplane follows through space can be changed very quickly with a change in power.

Since constant airspeed is essential for precision approach glides, change power and change in pitch simultaneously. Just remember, “Power up, Pitch up” to maintain constant airspeed. Once you have found the combination of power and pitch that gives you the desired approach indicated airspeed, adjust your glide path until it projects to the right place on the runway. Let’s walk through an approach. You have picked sixty knots for your approach KIAS with the airplane in the landing configuration. Looking out the window (as I know you do 99% of the time during an approach) you notice that the point on the ground that appears to be staying in the same spot on your windshield is one of the approach lights about 500 feet short of the runway. You decide that you would rather be descending toward the end of the runway. You add 200 RPM to the engine and make a corresponding pitch up to maintain 60 knots. After a few moments, you notice that you are now gliding toward the first runway exit. So you reduce your power by 100 RPM and make a slight pitch down correction. This process of continuous corrections is repeated until you are ready to raise your nose as you flare from the approach glide to slow flight over the runway. You are at the right place and right airspeed to make a great landing. I guess I failed to say that those three mistakes are failing to control the approach glide, failing to cross control before and after the landing, and failing to keep the airplane flying until it will not fly any more.