Energy Management on Final

Proper energy management on approach can transform a landing from good to gorgeous.

Tip Final Approach
Tip Final Approach
Photo: Purdue

After making a few circuits in the pattern in a Legend Cub at the Sentimental Journey Fly-in in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania — the site of the original Piper Cub factory — I stuck around to watch the other taildragger pilots do their thing. I was heartened that every single one of the Cub drivers made picture-perfect landings, touching down in one graceful three pointer after another.

Their secret, of course, was proper energy management on approach. If one pilot was little high and slow on final, he'd dip the nose or perform a baby slip to put him back on target speed and height for an ideal roundout and touchdown. It was a thing of beauty to watch.

Too many pilots who fly larger, more complex airplanes ignore the art of energy management in the pattern, flying all the way to the ground well above stall speed and landing fast with a very low descent rate. Normally these types of landings will work out OK with a satisfying squeak of the mains, but it's bad form. Carrying excess speed into the roundout means landing longer with more wear on tires and brakes and greater risk for damage or injury if something goes awry.

They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one, but try flying your approaches at the proper target speed and watch them transform from good to gorgeous.

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