December 12, 2001
It’s been said that, “A pilot’s second greatest thrill is flying. Landing is the first.” Without a doubt, while flying around may be fun, it’s not worth it if the pilot can’t land the plane safely. Flight schools spend approximately 50 percent of ground school time going over landing procedures with soon-to-be pilots. The process is not all that complicated, but every step in the process is important and there is a lot to remember.
The first requirement when landing an airplane is to inform air traffic control that you entering the traffic pattern of the airport as you approach. Once the pilot gets the go ahead from air traffic control, he must maintain proper altitude in the traffic pattern until he is lined up with the runway. Before dropping altitude the pilot must go through the landing checklist. The checklist is called the GUMPS check and stands for gas, undercarriage, mixture, power, and seat belt/shoulder harness/systems check. The GUMPS check requires the pilot to check the fuel gauge to determine that the aircraft has enough fuel to land. The “undercarriage” check is the reminder to lower the landing gear. The mixture check reminds the pilot to set the mixture gauge so that the mixture of fuel and air is at the proper level for landing. The Power check reminds the pilot to maintain the proper power level or landing. Finally, the GUMPS check reminds pilot to prepare themselves and their passengers for landing with seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, as well as, to check all the system gauges once more before descending.
Once the GUMPS checklist is complete, the pilot is lined up with the runaway, and the air traffic controller has given the go ahead, it is time to land the aircraft. At that point, the pilot aims for the threshold marker on the runway, while lowering the aircraft flaps and pitching the aircraft nose down to the proper glide ratio. This delicate balance continues while the aircraft slows and descends to grounds level. Just before touch down the pilot flares the nose of the aircraft upward and glides the plane onto the runway for a soft landing. At that point the pilot kills the throttle and air traffic control directs the pilot to the taxiing destination. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and another successful flight has been accomplished.
It requires a great deal of concentration and practice to successfully and consistently land an aircraft. While eventually it becomes second-nature, a pilots first landings are fraught with the dangers inexperience and anxiety bring. Good training and preparation, and experience will make great landers of most pilots so that they can experience the second greatest thrill time and again.