How Do Planes Land?

Guides · 6 min read · Aug 23, 2022
how to land a plane

Introduction

‍Being a pilot isn’t easy. Landing a plane, in particular, is no cakewalk. Plane crashes have killed people for centuries, and the dangers are only increasing. Fortunately, there are ways to become a safer pilot.

To become a professional pilot you need to know how can a plane land efficiently to make a safe landing. When you reach the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about plane landing.

Let’s dive right into the details!

What is landing?

Landing is the final yet most important part of the flight. It’s when an airplane returns to the ground after flying. It’s a final approach. A typical aircraft flight would include taxiing, takeoff, climbing, cruising, descending, and landing.

It is important and tricky for pilots to safely land the airplane.

A Virgin Australia airlines plane landing on a runway.

What happens during plane landing?

While landing, the speed of air and descent rate decrease to such an extent that the aircraft descends at a rate that allows it to land or touch down on the ground gently and gradually.

The speed reduction and low descent rate allow pilots land in an appropriate direction. Landing is accomplished by speed reduction and descending to the runway.

To learn more about how to land a plane, let’s first talk about what landing gear is.

What is landing gear?

A plane lands on the ground when it touches down safely and without any damage to the plane or any injuries to the people on board. The landing gear is the part of the plane that is used to land on the ground.

There are two main types of landing gear: main landing gear and nose landing gear.

The main landing gear helps when the airplane lands on a hard surface such as an airport runway or a beach. The nose landing gear helps when the airplane lands on soft surfaces such as grass or sand.

The landing gear is what it’s called. On large jets, it’ll be hidden inside the fuselage during flight to help with aerodynamics, then lowered as the plane reaches an airport. However, the landing gear on smaller aircraft may be fixed and permanently attached to the outside structure.

The landing gear of passenger planes is composed of several airplane wheels with sturdy tyres. The tyres must be strong and durable since they must accelerate from zero to 150 miles per hour when they strike the runway. The tyres get extremely hot due to the friction – that is the heat produced by the rubbing on the ground.

How do planes land?

Three factors work together to land an aircraft safely once it reaches the runway.

  1. The pilot brakes the wheels.
  2. The reverse thrust is usually used for large aircraft. Here, engine power is diverted to the front of the aircraft to help reduce speed.
  3. The wing plates, known as spoilers, lift up and create the drag, a force that helps slow the plane down, all contributing to a flawless landing.

Aircraft usually land on a firm runway or helicopter landing pad at an airport.

To land, the plane’s airspeed and rate of descent are reduced to allow for a gentle touch-down. Slowing down and descending to the runway is how you land. This is accomplished by decreasing thrust and/or increasing drag through the use of flaps, landing gear, or speed brakes. When a fixed-wing aircraft approaches the ground, the pilot will pull back on the control column to perform a flare or round-out.

This increases the Angle of Attack. In the instance of a tricycle gear aircraft, the aircraft will be able to land on its main wheels first, but in the case of a standard landing gear equipped aircraft, sometimes known as a “taildragger,” the aircraft will be able to land on all three wheels simultaneously.

Why do airplanes land on their rear wheels first and not the nosewheel?

The landing gear is made to handle the weight and impact of the plane during landing, while the nose gear can only hold 15% of the plane’s weight.

Many factors influence aircraft landing, including weight and wind direction. The “main landing gear” and the “nose landing gear” are two distinct types of landing gear on modern aircraft. A plane must land on the wheels closest to its center of gravity to prevent a dramatic tilt.

A pair of aircraft wheels on landing gear.

What is autopilot and can planes land on it?

An autopilot system is a computer that performs many of the tasks involved in flight. The plane’s pilots don’t actually “stop” flying it. Instead, autopilot makes sure they don’t always need to be “hands-on” with every area of the task.

However, landing a plane requires taking into account a variety of different factors, such as crosswinds, the rate of descent, weather conditions, and more. As a result, a computer cannot manage the situation on its own.

So, it’s not a good idea to make a landing on autopilot mode.

What is a landing flare?

The landing flare is a technique that allows a pilot to decrease the cruise speed of an airplane using no engine power. Decreasing forward speed results in a decrease in vertical speed. This generates kinetic energy, which has to go somewhere. One of those places is stopping the plane’s descent (if done from a straight line and level flight, the result is a balloon upwards).

How precisely does the flare need to be? It all varies depending on the airplane’s vertical speed. 

How do planes land in the snow?

According to FAA regulations, if it’s possible to avoid so, planes must not land on a runway that is coated in snow or ice. Pilots will use equipment and runway lights if they have to land to find the runway. Even some planes have skis for landing on ice or snow.

At which speed plane lands?

The speed at which a plane lands depends on various factors. It majorly depends on the type of airplane, wind speed, air temperature, air pressure, altitude, length of the runway, and overall situation.

An airplane typically starts its descent at around 100 to 120 miles away from its designated airport. When the plane reaches down around 10 to 15 miles from the airport, it slows down its speed. It takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to reach the runway centerline from where the plane starts its descent.

An aircraft approaching a runway for landing.

How does the wind make an aircraft drift?

When an airplane is in the sky, the wind pushes the plane in the direction of the wind. This is referred to as “Drift.” The amount of drift will increase with increasing wind speed.

When a pilot wants to land, it’s ideal if the wind is blowing directly towards them, also called headwind. Aircraft always attempt to land towards the wind since doing so improves their aerodynamics and performance for no additional cost.

The issues arise when pilots attempt to land at an airport with a single runway while the wind is blowing across the runway rather than down it.

At this point, a crosswind landing is necessary.

What is crosswind landing?

Airplanes have maximum crosswind landing limitations, Every aircraft manufacturer will issue maximum crosswind speeds that the airplane can land and takeoff in.

A landing action used in aviation, where a high amount of prevailing wind runs side by side of the runway centerline, is known as crosswind landing.

If the pilot does nothing, a crosswind will cause an airplane to descend to a runway to drift off track. The airplane will be more off track if the wind is blowing stronger.

Pilots can utilize a number of strategies to stop this drift during the landing descent to make sure the plane lands on the runway and is not blown off track by the crosswind:

  • Crabbed landing
  • Side Slip landing

What is a crab landing or a side slip landing?

When aircraft move in a direction other than where it is pointed, it is called a “crab”. Crab landing is used to correct crosswind conditions. The rudder and ailerons keep the airplane’s direction in the wind direction.

Another way of landing used to correct for crosswind is Side slip landing. The pilot keeps the plane in a direction parallel to the runway while putting down a wing into the crosswind. It will help in correcting side drifts.

An airplane approaching a runway for landing. How do planes land

How do airplanes brake when landing?

To safely land on runways, planes depend on braking systems. Most commercial airplanes travel at cruising altitude at a speed of around 500 to 600 mph. But they have to slow down when they arrive. For instance, the normal landing speed of a 747 is between 160 and 170 mph. Aircraft must also swiftly brake after touching the runway in order to stop completely.

Conclusion

The aviation world is a difficult yet rewarding and exciting profession. Becoming a pilot can be difficult too, depending on your goals and ability. To become a safe and competent pilot, you’ll need to be prepared and aware of the different steps required to take a plane from the planning board to the flying field. Landing a plane involves a lot of personal and environmental factors. We hope this article helped you in learning various concepts regarding the big question: how do planes land?

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

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