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Short field landing

Short field landing and takeoff procedure explained

At a certain point, your lessons will be about precision flying after you know the basics.  Now my lessons are about more precise flying, not only just about making it down to the ground safely.  Recently I was practicing to aim to land at a particular spot on the runway, using different flap configurations and no flaps.  This was to get used to being precise and prepare for the short field landing technique.

The other day I learned the short field landing method. There are two kinds of short field procedures, with an obstacle (we usually use a 50 foot obstacle) and with no obstacle.  We did the landing without obstacle and next we will do with obstacle, as that is more advanced.   The non-obstacle technique assumes that the runway is clear of obstacles (such as trees or power lines) so we don’t have to worry about clearing anything on our approach or take off.

The short field landing technique is a lot of fun to learn and practice.  It is a specialty procedure that comes in handy when landing at an airport with an unknown runway length or when there are concerns about usable runway length.

We want to plan to use as little runway surface as possible to both take off and land. So on the take off, we line up “on the button” meaning as close to the runway edge as possible.

Short field takeoff

For the Cessna 172, and our particular model, and at Springbank airport, we then follow this takeoff procedure:

  1. Apply full brake
  2. Flaps 10 degrees
  3. Full power
  4. Lean the fuel mixture (check), then mixture full rich
  5. Confirm engine gauges in the green
  6. Release brakes

Once the aircraft starts to roll we steer with rudder to maintain runway centre line. Depending on the aircraft model, we lift off at the recommended speed to fly in ground effect. The particular aircraft we were in, FDAJ, this speed was 46 knots.  We pull up to fly in ground effect, and then push down on the control column to keep from climbing and keep the aircraft level. We fly in ground effect a few feet off the ground without climbing until the airspeed builds to 60 knots, at which point we pitch up and climb out at 65 knots.  We let the aircraft gain 200 feet of altitude AGL. At Springbank the above sea level altitude is 3940 ft, so we wait until our altimeter shows 4140 ft.  We then check for two positive rates on the instruments: one on the vertical speed indicator (VSI) and the altimeter – that is, the VSI is above zero which means the aircraft is in a climb, and that altimeter is increasing which also means the same. We take flaps to 0 degrees, that will establish our speed to 70 knots, and we climb out normally!

Short field Landing

Then there is the landing, which is followed by a full flap approach. In our aircraft we used 30 degrees of flaps and approached at 61 knots as recommended in the aircraft’s pilot operating handbook (POH). We wanted to plan to touch down 500-600 feet after we flared so we look for appropriate runway markers for us to judge this distance. At Springbank, runways 16 and 34 have 500 foot and 1000 foot markers, so it is easy to see our targets.

After we touch down, we apply the brakes – hard. We push the nose of the aircraft down for maximum brake effectiveness and retract the flaps to decrease the lift also to really make those brakes effective.  The first few times I landed I wasn’t aggressive enough on the brakes but eventually got to pushing down on them hard enough. The application of brakes should be so hard you actually are pushed forward and can feel your seat belt.  This is because we are trying to use the minimum runway length possible.

It was really a lot of fun to learn this procedure and I’m excited to try this next time, this time I will be on my own.



About Alicja

Learning to fly at CYBW, no 6 for aircraft movements in Canada. I live in the Rockies, economist, writer, skier, climber, obsessed with mountains & aviation!