Pilots must be well aware of the rate during the approach and threshold crossing at which they are moving when executing such maneuvers. In this blog, we will discuss approach speed and threshold crossing speed, allowing you to better understand their differences and how each procedure should be undertaken.
The final approach to the landing runway is typically broken up into three stages, each separated by a speed change. These stages include the final approach speed, the threshold crossing speed, and the flare. By correctly following each step and slowing down the speed of the aircraft at a proper rate, pilots can ensure that they conduct a safe landing every time.
When discerning what speed is best for the final approach, one may always refer to aircraft flight manuals for a recommendation. If no recommendation is provided in the manual, then the pilot may defer to FAA recommendations which describe using a speed of 1.3 x Vso (Stall speed while in a landing configuration). Once you begin to approach the runway, pitch and power should be set to maintain the final approach speed while the descent is stabilized. If you find that you are unable to quickly establish the correct settings and speed, then you should go around to attempt the procedure again. In general, the best way to carry out the approach with a single-engine piston aircraft is to maintain an altitude of 200 feet or more while holding an optimal speed and sink rate with a centered heading.
Once the final approach speed and glidepath has been stabilized, you may then begin to carry out the threshold crossing speed. This procedure begins when there is no concern for reaching the runway, the first step is the slow reduction of the throttle. Lowering speed around 5 knots, it is important to ensure that timing is correct for an optimal threshold crossing.
The final stage of landing is the flare, and this is where you will continuously slow the aircraft over time. In some instances, you may even reach idle power at this point. Generally, it is best to be at a speed that is only a few knots above stalling during touch down so that the flare can be executed correctly. It is important that you optimally reduce your speed before landing as it can be difficult to lose speed at the last minute.
While such procedures are generally followed during a landing procedure, there are instances in which speeds will change due to various factors. If there are gusty winds present at the landing site, then you will need to maintain a faster approach speed. In some instances, you may also have to undertake a faster threshold crossing speed and flare in order to combat crosswinds with more effective flight controls.
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