Short Field Approach & Landing


  • Landing is the most dangerous phases of flight, as it is in a terminal area when the pilot is most likely to be fatigued and concentrating on the “get-there-itis
  • The goal of a short-field landing is to safely land when runway distance is limited
    • The approach is made with minimum engine power commensurate with flying towards the aiming point on the runway
    • This will result in a steeper approach than otherwise flown with other landing procedures
  • Calculate performance data, examples found here
  • Reference traffic pattern
  • The traffic pattern is the ultimate goal, which began with the Rectangular Course
  • . Speed must be reduced progressively as the aircraft’s height reduces, and after reaching the airspeed for final approach it must be maintained accurately. After touch-down, the pilot applies maximum wheel braking and maximum up-elevator. Wing-flaps are sometimes retracted to allow better braking performance.



All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Margin Of Safety In Flight Phases
Figure 1: Margin Of Safety In Flight Phases

C-172S Procedure:

    1. Complete the Descent Flows/Checklists
    2. Talk to tower as appropriate for the airspace you’re operating in
      • Controlled:[Tower], [Callsign], [Location], [Information], [Intentions]
        • Example:Palms tower, Cessna one seven two seven victor, fives miles to the west for touch and goes
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], [Location], [Information], [Intentions], [Facility Name]
        • Example:Palms tower, Cessna one seven two seven victor, five miles to the west for touch and goes, palms tower
    3. Abide by tower’s instructions, but plan to enter the traffic pattern at Traffic Pattern Altitude (TPA) on a 45° entry to the downwind, maintaining a one-half mile distance from the runway on the downwind leg
    4. Set power to 2200 RPM, to establish and maintain 100 KIAS
      • Trim as necessary
    5. Abeam the point of intended landing, set power to 1500 RPM and set the flaps to 10°, begin a gentle descent and call
      • Controlled:[Tower], [Callsign] abeam, gear 3 down and locked, [Landing Type]
        • ATC:[Callsign], [Winds], cleared for [Landing Type], [Runway]
      • Uncontrolled: None
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    6. At the 45° point to the intended touchdown point, commence a turn to the base leg
      • ICS:Cleared left, forward, clear right, turning [Left/Right]
      • Controlled: None
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], turning base for [Runway], [Facility Name]
      • The wind is now at your side, so depending on its strength, you will need to compensate for drift with a crab angle
    7. Set the flaps to 20° and establish 75 KIAS
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    8. Visually verify that the final approach is clear, and turn final
      • ICS:Cleared left, forward, clear right, turning [Left/Right]
      • Controlled: None
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], turning base for [Runway], [Facility Name]
    9. When landing is assured, set the flaps to 30° and establish 65 KIAS
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    10. By 300′ above landing, complete a GUMP check
  • Gas:
  • Undercarriage:
  • Mixture:
  • Prop:
Fuel Selector and Pumps – SET
Gear – DOWN AND LOCKED (if applicable)
Prop – FULL FORWARD (if applicable)
  1. At the round out, commence reducing power to idle, continuing the flare to touchdown on the main wheels first, holding the nose wheel off with back pressure throughout the roll-out; allow settling gently
    • Round out when the distant trees go out of sight (look long to flare)
  2. Increase aileron deflection into the wind if present or has shifted from expected
  3. Increase “up” elevator to increase braking effectiveness
  4. Maintain directional control throughout the roll-out with the rudder, slowing sufficiently before turning on a taxiway
    • Reference board speeds: you should be traveling no faster than twice the distance remaining
    • Example: at the 3 board, you should be traveling no more than 60 knots
  5. If required, raise the flaps to decrease lift over the wings and therefore increase weight on the brakes
  6. Exit the runway without delay at the first available taxiway or on a taxiway as instructed by ATC
    • An aircraft is considered clear of the runway when all parts of the aircraft are past the runway edge and there are no restrictions to its continued movement beyond the runway holding position markings
  7. Proceed with taxi procedures



  • Touchdown as close to the approach end as safely possible
  • Utilize maximum braking available
  • Keep tires on the ground to keep friction
  • Land into a headwind
  • Land as the lowest weight possible


Exiting the Runway After Landing:

  • Pilots must not exit the landing runway onto another runway unless authorized by ATC
    • At airports with an operating control tower, pilots should not stop or reverse course on the runway without first obtaining ATC approval
  • In the absence of ATC instructions, the pilot is expected to taxi clear of the landing runway by taxiing beyond the runway holding position markings associated with the landing runway, even if that requires the aircraft to protrude into or cross another taxiway or ramp area
    • The tower will issue the pilot instructions which will permit the aircraft to enter another taxiway, runway, or ramp area when required
  • Once all parts of the aircraft have crossed the runway holding position markings, change to ground control frequency when advised by the tower and obtain a taxi clearance
    • The tower will issue instructions required to resolve any potential conflictions with other ground traffic prior to advising the pilot to contact ground control
    • Ground control will issue taxi clearance to parking. That clearance does not authorize the aircraft to “enter” or “cross” any runways. Pilots not familiar with the taxi route should request specific taxi instructions from ATC


Base Leg and Final Approach
Figure 2: Airplane Flying Handbook, Base Leg and Final Approach


Common Errors:

  • Inadequate wind drift correction on the base leg
  • Overshooting or undershooting the turn onto final approach, resulting in too steep or too shallow a turn onto final approach
  • Flat or skidding turns from base leg to final approach as a result of overshooting/inadequate wind drift correction
  • Poor coordination during turn from base to final approach
  • Failure to complete the landing checklist in a timely manner
  • Un-stabilized approach
  • Failure to adequately compensate for flap extension
  • Poor trim technique on final approach
  • Attempting to maintain altitude or reach the runway using elevator alone
  • Focusing too close to the airplane resulting in too high a round out
  • Focusing too far from the airplane resulting in too low a round out
  • Touching down prior to attaining proper landing attitude
  • Failure to hold sufficient back-elevator pressure after touchdown
  • Excessive braking after touchdown


Practical Test Standards:



  • Before every clearance to land, tower will give you the winds
    • Pay attention to this information! It may indicate a wind-shift you did not expect!