Takeoffs and Landings


Using the skills developed in previous flights, in particular the 3D rectangular pattern flown in Flight Five, this is your opportunity to get serious about takeoffs and landings. To practice takeoffs and landings, flight six is flown in the airport traffic pattern where you do a series of “Touch and Gos“. In addition to refining your touch down technique, Flight Six introduces traffic pattern communication procedures.

Before commencing Flight Six, do a thorough Preflight inspection.

Prior to starting the engine, determine if the conditions are suitable for touch and gos. At a tower-controlled airport, this will usually include listening to the ATIS.

Especially for your first session of touch and gos, you will want the wind to be more or less aligned with the runway. Too much crosswind — more than 6 knots — is undesirable initially.  Having listened to the ATIS and chosen the runway most closely aligned with the wind direction, go ahead and start the engine and make your request to ground control. At a tower-controlled airport, your request will be similar to the following.

“Hayward Ground, Cessna 12345, at West T’s request taxi 28 left for touch and gos, with Tango”

As usual, the format includes who are you calling, who are you, and what you need.

The controller will probably respond.

“Cessna 12345, taxi runway 28 left”

To which you respond:

“Taxiing 28 left, Cessna 12345.”

As you taxi to the runway, take a look at the windsock to verify the direction of the wind. Because the ATIS is only recorded once per hour, the wind may have changed direction since the recording was made. It’s important that the airplane is pointed into the wind when taking off and landing so, if the wind changes direction significantly, you may want to change your runway selection.

It is the pilot’s responsibility to select the appropriate runway and to request accordingly; it is not the tower’s job to figure this out for you.

If you are flying from an airport without ATIS or AWOS, you will probably need to base your runway selection entirely on your observation of the position of the windsock. At an airport without a control tower, once you decide which runway to use, announce your intentions on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). Your call will be like the following.

“Rio Vista Traffic, Cessna 1234 taxiing runway 25 for touch and gos, Rio Vista”

When taxiing, you need to know where the wind is coming from in order to correctly position the control surfaces. If the wind is coming toward you, assuming you are taxiing an airplane with tricycle gear like the Cessna 152, you should position the control wheel as if you are turning the airplane to face the wind.

If the wind is coming from behind you position the control wheel as if you are diving the airplane away from the wind. Firmly hold the control wheel in the appropriate position. As you make turns during your taxi (actually steering the airplane with your feet) be sure to change the control wheel position relative to the wind.

Always keep track of where the wind is coming from and make a habit of correctly positioning the controls even when the wind is light.

If you always know where the wind is coming from, and make a habit of correctly positioning the controls even when the wind is light, when you encounter strong wind you will already have everything correctly positioned as a matter of routine. These control surface positions are intended to minimize the possibility of the wind moving the airplane involuntarily on the ground.

Perform the usual before take off checks and, when ready for takeoff, contact the tower.

“Hayward tower, Cessna 12345 holding short runway 28 left, ready for takeoff, left closed traffic runway 28 left”

The tower will probably respond:

Cessna 12345 cleared for takeoff runway 28 left, make left closed traffic

You can acknowledge with:

“Cleared for takeoff 28 left, left closed traffic, Cessna 12345.”

The term “left closed traffic” means you intend to take off and turn left into a left hand traffic pattern and that you intend to remain in the traffic pattern. Sometimes you may take off on a different runway than the one on which you intend to do your touch and gos in which case your request and the tower’s instructions will be more complex.

If there is no tower, you need to monitor the CTAF and observe traffic before announcing your intentions. Turning the airplane through 360 degrees on the ground is a good way to observe the whole area before deciding to take the runway. Once you determine the appropriate runway and see that the approach is clear, your call would be as follows.

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 12345 departing runway 25 for right closed traffic runway 25, Rio Vista”

With or without a tower, be sure to check for traffic before taxiing ono the runway and taking off as normal.

After takeoff, climb out at the best rate of climb (Vy) for your airplane. During takeoff and climb-out you should have one hand on the control wheel and the other on the throttle. The reason for having your hand on the throttle continuously during the ground-roll is to be ready to respond quickly if an emergency situation should require you to abort the takeoff. Situations that would cause you to immediately throttle to idle and abort a takeoff include a loss of oil pressure, a rough or sputtering engine, or a runway incursion, etc. During climb out, you keep your hand on the throttle to ensure that you maintain maximum power and that the throttle does not creep back to a lower power setting during the crucial first few seconds of flight.

Standard takeoff procedure is to climb straight ahead until reaching at least 500 feet AGL.  Upon reaching 500 feet AGL, check for traffic both ways and then turn crosswind. You should still be climbing at the best rate of climb during the crosswind turn. If you let the airspeed increase, your groundspeed will increase and you will need to bank unnecessarily steeply. If you lose airspeed in the turn, you could get dangerously slow. Remember, your stall speed increases in a turn, so getting slow in turns can be hazardous. Better too fast than too slow, but try to maintain Vy as you transition from upwind to crosswind.

If you are flying at an airport without a control tower, you are expected to announce your position on each leg of the pattern. If there is a control tower in operation, position reports are only required if requested by the tower. At a no-tower airport you would announce your position as follows.

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 345, right crosswind runway 25, Rio Vista”

On each leg of the pattern, substitute the appropriate name for the leg of the pattern you are flying. It’s important to specify left or right traffic depending on the direction of the traffic pattern being flown. Standard traffic pattern direction is left, but there are many exceptions. The name of the airport is included at the beginning and end of the transmission because CTAF frequencies are often shared by several airports and specifying the airport name at the beginning and end makes it clear which airport your transmission applies to.

The crosswind leg is short and you will be wings-level only for a few seconds. During the wings -level phase, take a good look in both directions to be sure you’re clear of traffic before turning downwind. If you haven’t yet reached pattern altitude, you should still be at Vy during the crosswind to downwind turn. Under normal circumstances, turns in the traffic pattern should require no more than 30 degrees of bank. You should use ten percent of your vertical speed, as indicated on the vertical speed indicator (VSI), as a lead point from which to start your level-off. Therefore, if the traffic pattern altitude is 1000 feet AGL and you are climbing at 500 feet per minute (fpm), you should start your level-off at 950 feet AGL. To level off, lower the nose to a straight and level attitude and then reduce power. In many trainers, about 2100rpm is a good setting for the downwind leg. Once established downwind with the airplane flying straight and level at pattern altitude, commence the before-landing checks. It’s a good idea to memorize the before-landing checks as a flow pattern and, after performing them from memory, to use the checkist to verify that each item has been done. In the Cessna 152, an up and across flow pattern works well.

Check to be sure fuel selector is on, mixture is rich (for landings below 3000 MSL), carburetor heat on, primer locked and seat belts secure.

The downwind leg should be parallel to the runway and, notwithstanding any wind correction angle, your heading should be the reciprocal of the runway heading.

Once you are abeam the touchdown zone, reduce power to initiate a descent. Pitch up very slightly to reduce airspeed as you begin to descend. Once the airspeed is within the flap- operating range, add 10 degrees of flaps. As the flaps go down, the airplane will have a tendency to pitch up. Slight forward pressure on the control wheel may be needed as the flaps extend in order to maintain an appropriate airspeed.

At a tower-controlled airport, you can expect your landing clearance at some point on downwind.

Cessna 12345, cleared for touch and go runway 28 left, make left traffic.”

“Cleared for touch and go, 28 left, left traffic, Cessna 12345”

Once the runway is 45 degrees behind you, check for traffic on final and, if clear, turn onto base. Continue to descend as you turn from downwind to base and be careful to maintain the desired airspeed. During the few seconds of straight and level flight on base, check for traffic on final in both directions. Add another ten degrees of flaps. When you see that final is clear, make your turn, being careful to maintain airspeed in the turn. A stall on base to final would be very serious because you would have insufficient altitude to recover; so it’s important that the turn is coordinated and at the appropriate airspeed. If you get too slow, apply slight forward pressure on the control wheel to lower the nose. If you are then too low, add power. The turn from base to final should be at about 500 feet AGL.

On final at a no-tower airport in addition to announcing your position, you need to state your intentions on final.

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 345, final 25 touch and go, Rio Vista.”

By stating if you are doing a touch and go or full stop, you give other aircraft the opportunity to plan their spacing accordingly.

On final, add the final 10 degrees of flaps and slow to final approach speed. Align the airplane with the runway centerline and visualize your touchown spot.  Be sure to have the airplane trimmed for your final approach speed. Once you are definitely within glide range of your touchdown spot, reduce the power to idle. As you approach the touchdown spot you are aiming for, move your point of focus down the runway. Do not fixate on the ground, but instead focus on a point some distance down the runway. This will help you maintain your position on the centerline and the longitudinal alignment of the airplane while allowing your peripheral vision to take care of depth perception. 

When you get very close to the ground, start to level off, and then very gradually raise the nose to start bleeding off airspeed.  You should be within 10 feet of the runway at this point. This level-off and gradual raising of the nose is known as the flare. The amount of backpressure applied to the control wheel during the flare is critical. Start off with very little backpressure and increase it as you get closer to touchdown.

In a high-wing tricycle gear airplane such as the Cessna 152, you should touch down main wheels first in a nose-high attitude. Maintain backressure on the control wheel after the moment of touchown so that the nose wheel touches the ground well after the main gear. Once the wheels are on the ground, maintain directional control by steering with your feet. During a touch and go, your toes should be on the bottom part of the rudder pedals to allow you to steer to stay on the centerline. As you roll down the runway, retract the flaps, visually checking to be sure they actually retract, and turn the carburetor heat off.  Then apply full throttle and accelerate to take off as usual. Be sure to apply some right rudder as you take off to remain coordinated and counteract the plane’s left-turning tendency.  Continue upwind and fly another touch and go circuit.

This flight exercise, specifically the landings, will be one of the most challenging of the whole course. In a tricycle gear airplane, a good landing is one where you touch down at the point on the runway you targeted, with your main gear touching the runway first, and with the longitudinal axis of the airplane aligned with and over the runway centerline.

Do not settle for landing off centerline or with the airplane’s longitudinal axis out of alignment with the runway. Firm landings are ok, but off-center or sideways ones are not, and landing on anything other than the main gear first is hazardous. If your approach is not satisfactory, or you are not ready to land for any reason, you can always “go around.” To go around, add full power and pitch for a climb, initially pitching for best angle of climb airspeed, Vx. Carburetor heat should be off and flaps retracted to twenty degrees, then ten degrees and once a positive rate of climb is established retract the flaps to zero and transition to the best rate of climb airpseed Vy. It is important not to retract the flaps all at once. Doing so could cause the airplane to settle back onto the runway. Once you have the climb established and the plane is fully under control, you should announce that you are going around. At a tower-controlled airport, you would say:

“Cessna 12345 going around”

If there is no tower, you would say something like:

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 345 going around runway 25, Rio Vista”

In either event, keep in mind that safely flying the airplane and initiating the climb is more important than the announcement.

Your number one priority is to fly the airplane. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate sums up your priorities.

Once your upwind climb is stabilized, continue flying the pattern as usual.

After several touch and gos, and at such time as you are ready to terminate your flight, advise the tower at some point on downwind that the next landing will be to a full stop.

“Request full stop, Cessna 12345”

Cessna 12345, cleared to land runway 28 left

“Cleared to land 28 left, Cessna 12345.”

After landing, if there is another runway between you and the ramp, you will need to hold short of that runway and wait for instructions from the tower before proceeding.

Cessna 12345, cross runway 28 right, contact ground on the other side on 121.4

“Crossing 28 right, then ground 121.4, Cessna 12345”

When you are clear of the runway, contact ground for taxi clearance.

“Hayward ground Cessna 12345 clear of 28 right at Delta west T’s”

“Cessna 12345 taxi west t’s”

At an airport without a control tower in operation, when you are ready for your last touch and go, inform traffic that you will execute a full stop when announcing you are on final.

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 345, final 25 full stop, Rio Vista.”

Once you have landed and taxied clear of the runway, announce that you are clear.

“Rio Vista traffic, Cessna 345, clear of runway 25. Rio Vista.”

This concludes Flight Six. However, be prepared to repeat Flight Six as many times as necessary to master the required skills. If you are struggling with your landings visit the FirstFlight touchdown clinic for additional tips on how to perform great landings