Why Every Landing Feels So Different

So you feel like your landings are a little inconsistent and you can’t quite see the runway as well as you might like.  Maybe you are flaring a little high or regularly landing left or right of centerline.  If so, we’ve got something for you to try.

If you think about where you sit when you drive your car, you sit vertically, in the same position, not leaning or tilting left or right.  The same should be true in an airplane, yet with many new pilots, it’s not always the case.  Having the correct sight picture is crucial to making good landings and being able to reach the controls comfortably.  Given that most GA airplanes are designed as one size fits all, it’s not uncommon to wind up sitting too low in the seat and not having a good sight picture over the nose.
Having a proper sight picture will often fix:
  • Landing off of centerline
  • Flaring too high
  • Not controlling yaw in the flare
  • Not controlling drift appropriately
  • Not seeing traffic
  • Not maintaining straight and level flight
The proper sight picture is so important in fact, that in most larger airplanes (and it should be in all airplanes) there is a device specifically for aligning your eyes in the appropriate space in the cockpit, both forward and back, as well as up and down.
pilot sight alignment device
The “seat alignment system” consists of three small balls, and depending on whether you are sitting in the right seat or left seat, you should align the two corresponding balls to your side out of your peripheral vision.  This will ensure your head and eyes are in the proper location both forward and back, and height wise.  More importantly, this will ensure.  Your eyes are in the same spot each time you land, so you have one less variable to take into account and can make more consistent landings.
Given that you probably don’t have such a device in your 172, here’s what I would recommend.
Taxi your airplane on over to a nice long taxiway and have a look down it.  You should be able to see the front of your cowling, not just the spinner, and should be able to see the taxiway line roughly 15-20′ in front of the aircraft.  Try going out with your instructor and try a few different seat positions (generally sitting higher is always better), and have them take a look at where your eyes are during your landings. Most importantly, find a comfortable setup that works for you and stick with it to help improve your landings and make them consistent.
Why Every Landing Feels So Different
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Why Every Landing Feels So Different
How to properly align your sight picture for landing in an airplane.
Jon Kotwicki
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