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Landing 3D aircraft

Posted by Ben on 10/24/2016 to Tips N Tricks
1.Landing is a maneuver, like any other. You are the pilot, not the passenger. The very first step to making good landings is to take responsibility for them. If you are at the field, and you see a pilot make a bad landing, and he turns around and says "the plane did..." then you can be pretty sure he's never going to be a landing expert. Once a pilot can say "I screwed that up, I need more practice" (about any maneuver) he is on his way to being an expert.

2. CG

CG (Center of gravity) is important for landing. When you are landing, you should (if you are doing it right) be flying slowly on final approach. We are all aware that if we go too slow, our wing will reach a speed at which it no longer works and will stop flying. We call this a stall. When we stall, we lose lift, and the plane will fall out of the air.

However, our aircraft has two wings (if it's a monoplane) in front, and one in the back (the horizontal stabilizer with elevators). In flight, the main wing holds the plane up, and the tail wing provide up or down lift to hold the plane stable. This is why a nose-heavy plane requires some "up" trim and why a tail-heavy plane requires some "down" trim (and why expecting your elevator to always end up perfectly in line with your stabilizer is not correct).

When you slow way down for final approach, the smaller tail wing stops flying first. As the tail wing loses efficiency, the balance of the plane takes over. A nose-heavy plane will drop its nose (the heavy end) and a tail-heavy plane will drop its tail (the heavy end). Dropping the nose is not a problem...dropping the tail causes the plane to slow down more and we may stall. This is why a tail-heavy plane is more difficult to land, because the pilot has to use elevator to push the nose down to maintain flight speed.

You might want a tail-heavy airplane for 3d tricks, but first be sure you can land it. To help:


Do not glide down to landing. Your throttle is a speed *control* and if you set it correctly (about 1/8 on the SHP) it will help to keep your plane at the proper speed on landing, not too fast and not too slow.

If you learn to fly a full-size plane (or learn to fly an RC plane correctly) you will be taught at some point to fly a "stabilized approach". This means that your landing approach is stable, in that it has no time limit. You could start your approach at 20 feet high or 2,000 ft high, and you can fly in this mode as long as you want.

The opposite of a "stable approach" is a "decaying approach"...this is an approach flown without enough throttle or too slowly which has a time limit. The plane is slowing down (because there is no throttle) and the pilot is trying to get it on the runway before something bad happens.

To fly a stabilized approach, put the nose down about 10-15 degrees, use 1/8 throttle or so, and point the airplane at the spot you want to land. Start high enough and far enough away that you get a chance to fly a stabilized approach down to the runway. Don't "flare" or do anything else until you are very low. If you cut the throttle and pull back on the stick, make sure you're only ankle-high. Too many pilots want to have a dramatic flare at the end of their approach...leave that to the experts. Just fly down to the ground and close the throttle for the last foot or so. Done.


The elevator is the important control for landing. DO NOT land on 3D rates. Use your low rates. First, fly a pass down the runway about 2 feet high on low rates at about half throttle. Can you do it? For most of us, probably not. Lower your low rates and increase your low rate exponential until you can smoothly fly just above the runway consistently and smoothly. When you are flying a stabilized approach, having the correct elevator response will allow you to actually pilot the aircraft in a straight line, rather than fighting a bucking bronco. Get your elevator response right!


Watch people who can land. Watch people who cannot. See their habits.

What we do not want to do is to go up really high, cut off our motor, and dive at the runway, then pull up and glide along the runway, bouncing up and down, hoping to be able to smack the runway on a lucky bounce.

Instead, we select low rates, select low throttle, point the nose 10-15 degrees down toward the end of the runway and fly a smooth straight line. When we are very low we cut our throttle and bring the aircraft to level and let it touch down.

If we mess it up, we make any necessary repairs, change our CG or transmitter as needed, and try again. Once you know how to land, your repair bills go way down.