Target the Touchdown Zone

Spotting Traffic in the Pattern Flying

We all strive for landings that are silky smooth, where the wheels of the airplane appear to kiss the ground before they slowly roll to a stop. But in addition to making a soft touchdown a priority, you should have an area on the runway in mind as the touchdown zone. If you are not on the ground by the end of that zone you should, without any hesitation, push the throttle (or throttles) forward and go around.

In most cases, the first third of the runway should be your target touchdown zone. While there is no good reason to target the first couple of hundred feet since the consequences of landing short are nothing short of devastating, it is best to make sure that you have a significant amount of runway left to play with after you land in case there is an unexpected problem, such as malfunctioning brakes.

Speaking of brakes, as soon as you are on the ground you should tap the pedals slightly to ensure that they actually engage the brakes. If there is no response, immediately initiate a go around, fly the next approach at the minimum safe speed and plan to land as close to the approach end as you safely can. Without the help of brakes you may even want to select another airport to land at with a longer runway for added safety.

If you don't plan to land inside a targeted touchdown zone you may not have time to execute a go around in case of a failure with the likely result of a banged up airplane.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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