Pilot's tip of the week

Benefits of a Spot Landing Contest

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Subscriber question:

"Other than bragging rights at a local fly-in if you win, is there any real-world benefit to spot landing contests?" Sam Y.

Tom:

“It’s fun to be the ace of the base and win a spot-landing contest. But being good at accuracy landings has benefits far beyond winning the adoration of your fellow fliers. To be consistently good at spot landings you must master three skills: airspeed control, glide path control, and the timing of the landing flare.

Any maneuver requiring precision, including obstacle takeoffs, high density altitude, aerial photography, flight near or at maximum weight, and emergencies, requires accurate airspeed control. A few knots here or there makes the difference if an engine fails, in singles as well as twins. Master airspeed control in spot landings and you can apply it to all phases of flight.

Flying a consistent glide path to arrive at a precise touchdown spot is great practice in what is called flight path management. That’s a fancy way of saying the ability to make the airplane go precisely where you want. There are few more obvious ways of detecting the effect of your control inputs on your flight path than a chalk line marking where you’ll win the spot landing contest. But with this practice you can also learn to manage the airplane’s flight path through normal maneuvers and critical survival skills like an engine-out glide to an off-airport landing.

Mastering flight path management does you no good if you can’t make a smooth transition to the next phase of flight. In an engine-out emergency, you only have one chance to get it right, avoiding a stall into your emergency field by flaring too soon, or impacting hard, or running off the end of the field by flaring too late. Even normal landings often come up short or end up running off the end of the runway.

Spot landing contests are fun. They’re also great preparation for all your flying.”

Have you ever participated in a spot landing contest?

(NEW) IFR Mastery scenario #153 “What’s Up in Watsonville” is now available. You did your homework for this IMC departure. Obstacle Departure Procedure? Check. Emergency return plan? Check. Glass panel configured and ready? Check. Unfortunately, your cleared route undoes all this work and ATC says their hands are tied. Will you go with the flow or negotiate a new plan that checks the right boxes? Watch the Intro video.

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