Flight School: The Touch-and-Go

Are touch-and-goes a good idea during flight training?

William F. Ball_ has been an active flight instructor for 30 years and a designated pilot examiner (DPE) for 21 years. He conducts testing and certification activities for all FAA certificates and ratings. He has given more than 8,000 hours of flight instruction and is currently an instructor for SimCom, teaching in the Cessna Citation CE-500 and CE-525 jet programs. He says:_

A question often arises about the practice of doing touch-and-goes during flight training. The proponents of this practice will say that by doing touch-and-goes, more practice can be gained in a given flight lesson. Albeit well meaning, I feel this premise is flawed. We must impress upon new students that each takeoff and landing is a unique experience with a beginning and an end. We must teach them to properly land before attempting a subsequent takeoff.

In a typical light training airplane being flown by a student there are many components that must be instilled firmly to ensure safe operation. A typical light airplane in the landing phase is configured with flaps extended, trim set to the landing airspeed and, in most light airplanes, carburetor heat applied. The airplane is in a landing attitude. To immediately transition to a takeoff configuration upon touchdown is at least counterproductive and at most inherently dangerous.

After a landing the student should taxi off the assigned runway, cross the hold line, stop and perform the after-landing checklist. This will provide him/her the opportunity to reconfigure the airplane appropriately and to ensure all controls and trims are reset.

The instructor can take advantage of this opportunity to brief the student on the approach and landing, and provide valuable insight and critique on points well executed as well as those areas that need further attention.

Safety must be the primary concern. In my opinion, touch-and-goes for a new student undergoing flight training are fraught with potential pitfalls. As an aside, neither the Practical Test Standards (PTS) nor the Airplane Flying Handbook published by the FAA addresses the issue of touch-and-goes. Let’s give the takeoff and the landing the respect they deserve and teach them as separate but equal components of this most vital aspect of learning to fly.

David Larkin_ is assistant chief flight instructor at Northway Aviation, a Part 141 flight school in Everett, Washington. He has been a CFI for 10 years and also holds instrument and multiengine instructor ratings. He earned the Gold Seal in 2008. Surrounded by technically advanced aircraft, he still enjoys teaching landings. He says_:

Touch-and-go landings are a valuable tool in flight training, and allow students to practice the many elements of flying a good approach without incurring the time and expense of taxiing back for every repetition. Making the landing itself a touch-and-go allows many more repetitions of the approach and landing procedures per hour flown.

A good landing begins with a good approach, and a good approach relies on a well-learned and much-practiced procedure. The use of trim, flying an accurate ground track, efficiently executing the before-landing checklist, and the correct use of pitch, power and flaps for the descent are all items that require a lot of practice. Students who are not well rehearsed in the various pitch, power and configuration changes needed for a good approach often are not stabilized for landing when they arrive at the runway threshold.

That brings us to the hardest part of landing to get a feel for — the flare. If your student is having trouble with the flare, as most do, it doesn’t make sense to stop and taxi back just to practice the last five seconds of the flight one more time. Furthermore, touch-and-goes allow for more practice of all types of landing approaches required for the private pilot certificate: normal, short field, soft field and forward slip.

Finally, the “go” portion of the touch-and-go encompasses many of the elements of a most important safety technique: A student who is proficient at safely reconfiguring the airplane for takeoff while still rolling on the runway is practicing many of the same skills needed to perform the all-important go-around from a rejected landing.

Naturally there are cautions, and situations not appropriate for touch-and-goes. Short- and soft-field take-offs have to be practiced by taxiing back. And if the runway at your home airport is short, safety demands that you taxi back or fly to a nearby airport with a longer runway to practice touch-and-goes. Students flying solo should do touch-and-goes only in light winds, and only after lots of experience doing them with an instructor aboard. With a healthy application of good judgment, touch-and-goes can be used, safely and to good effect, in flight training.

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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