If you're anything like me when I was working on my private pilot certificate and struggling to hold a proper glide slope, then here's some tips for learning how to adjust and making your descent more consistent.
First things first, if there is a PAPI or VASI on the runway (like the one pictured above) then use it! Make yourself create what's called PAPI discipline. Don't accept seeing 4 white and stay being too high, and FOR SURE don't accept 4 red. "4 red you're dead" is an old saying, and it's a saying for a reason.
This isn't to say that every time you see 4 red you're in critical danger, but don't create a habit of accepting that and still continuing a descent or you may find out the hard way that you're far too low. Here's 2 pictures to help illustrate both a PAPI and VASI lighting system:
When it comes to actually flying the plane, the trick is always airspeed. Transition from your final approach speed to touchdown speed and you'll grease the landing every time too.
You'll always hear that there is 3 things a pilot controls: heading, airspeed and altitude. Heading is more simple in this case, use the ailerons and rudder hold runway centerline as you descend down. Have a crosswind? Use more!
We then control airspeed with pitch, and altitude with power.
So let's say you're getting a reading of 4 white on the lights and you're 10 knots faster than what you should be. What do you do? Take out some power! Bring the throttle back a bit and let the altitude slowly start to decrease and bring the nose up slightly as well. When you're back on the glide path bring some power back in and keep watching that airspeed because it is so so important, especially as you move up to larger and faster planes.
Remember too to keep it smooth, normally it only takes small corrections to come back to where you need to be. In that previous example, if you immediately take out full power and abruptly jerk the nose up you'll descend quick and lose airspeed too fast and will go past what you were needing to correct. From going to being too high and fast, now you might be too low and too slow. Being too low and too slow kills good pilots, because you can stall the plane with little to no altitude to recover.
It's always good to know how to conduct a proper forward slip too, especially when you're way too high and close to the runway. Take it from me, you won't turn on final and be exactly where you want to be every time so it's best to know how to correct.
Make sure you have no flaps, take out power, keep your eye on a spot on the runway to touchdown down on, then get that rudder and ailerons in and start going down! Once you're coming up to where you want to be smoothly add the power back in as you take out rudder and ailerons. Then work with airspeed and power to grease that landing!
A good landing is all about knowing how to work the plane. You're always watching heading, airspeed and altitude and applying the proper corrections. If there is a PAPI/VASI there, use discipline and work to stay on the right glide path.
Wondering where you can go practice some good landings at? Head over to our website and use the Airport Search Link to find an airport near you with an adequate runway. Be sure to comment any tips and tricks you have too or some good landing stories and stay tuned for the next post!