The Cessna 172 was the first mass-produced light airplane, and is still used by thousands of pilots around the world.
A four-seater plane, the Skyhawk is often used for flight training and was first produced in the 1950s.
The 172 is a popular airplane because it is easy to fly, very stable, has an excellent safety record, and has a high wing design allowing a large window for visibility.
The sky is clear, and you can see everything around you.
The 172 is a popular training aircraft because it is easy to land. A tricycle landing gear allows the plane to sit more upright when landing, and it is easier to control if the plane lands slightly off-center.
The Cessna 172 is a stable but fast airplane. So how easy is it to land? Let’s look at the process in more detail.
Establish A Steady Pattern
When planning to land the 172 it’s important to adjust flap settings based on wind speed and the type of aircraft being flown.
Landing speed should be reduced gradually until reaching the desired approach speed and pitch attitude should be maintained during the flare phase and then lowered gently.
Flaps help an airplane fly faster by increasing lift. A plane flying into the wind needs more flap than a plane flying away from the wind because the wing is moving forward when it is generating lift.
To get the maximum benefit from flaps, the pilot must know how much wind there is and what direction the wind is coming from. Flaps will ultimately help the airplane land safely.
High-lift devices like flaperons and slats can lower stall speeds, increase wing area (which decreases wing loading) and provide more lift at low airspeeds.
Flap extensions can increase approach angles, which helps navigate over obstacles near the approach end.
However, flap extensions can reduce glide distances and cause stalls so think carefully before adding these extensions.
A consistent pattern is essential for landing. This technique allows you to land from any position after takeoff.
You need to be aware of your speed and how much power you use to maintain this speed.
Pitch controls airspeed, and altitude should influence how much power you need.
The Right Speed
Strong winds are often a problem when landing a plane. The wind is a constant force that affects flight paths.
To compensate for this, you should add half of the gust speed to your approach speed. Flying into a gusty wind means you’ll be pitching up and down more than usual.
You may also experience some airspeed fluctuations. Normal approaches and short field approaches are practiced at different speeds.
At lower speeds, the nose is more down than at higher speeds. This allows you to clear obstacles planted at the end of runways.
Focus On Flare
When an airplane lands, there is a roundout phase and a touchdown phase. In the roundout phase, the pilot increases the speed of the plane to decrease its rate of descent.
This allows the plane to be brought down to a safe distance from the runway.
During the landing, the pilot brakes the plane to prepare for the touchdown. Then, during the touchdown, the pilot reduces the throttle to slow the plane down. These processes are relatively easy in a 172.
It’s All About The Nose
Pitch targets are important because they help pilots land safely. As explained above, the nose of an airplane should be pointed toward the horizon as soon as possible after takeoff.
This helps the plane gain altitude faster and stay aloft longer.
The final goal is for the nose to be high and not horizontal as this results in a climb, instead of an appropriate rate of descent.
The next important factor to gain a smooth landing is to have the centerline aligned with the runways and running parallel. If the aircraft isn’t approaching straight a side load will result.
The tendency for the plane to turn left isn’t eliminated at low power, when the nose rises, you should prepare to make minor rudder input to straighten the aircraft.
The 172 has two rows of rivets which are perfect to help guide you to bring the nose in alignment with the centerline.
Don’t Stop Yet
Landing the 172 in a full stall requires you to add back pressure to the controls. Yoke reach stops indicate when the pilot should release pressure on the controls.
Minimum controllable air speeds are found by looking up the 172 flight manual.
Landing gear must be lowered slowly and smoothly. When landing, the plane needs to be kept level until the wheels touch down. Crosswinds (see also “How To Calculate Crosswind Component“) are still present when landing.
Roll the wings up after landing to increase the effectiveness of the wind control system.
Crosswind landings are not radically different from normal landings; they just require a little more control.
Practice crosswind landings by using rudder to keep the plane aligned with the centerline and ailerons to control drift across the runway.
Land upwind wheel first, then downwind main and finally nose wheel. Crosswind inputs should be used constantly during the entire takeoff roll until the airplane reaches the end of the runway.
The pilot must use the crosswinds to gain more speed before the touchdown.
Although a Cessna 172S can fly in winds up to 15 knots (see also “How Fast Can A Cessna Fly?“). You may want to consider landing in winds over 15 knots.
If you find you are unable to maintain alignment with the runway, you shouldn’t attempt to land and select a more favorable runway or another airport.
A Bumpy Ride
Bounces are caused when you touch down with too much speed at too high a descent.
Flares are launched with too much pitch rate or too much airspeed and floats are caused when you enter a flare with too much airspeed.
A bounce occurs when the nose goes down while flying up. To correct the problem, you need to lower the nose until it is on the horizon.
You also need to increase the throttle to stop the nose from going down again. Once the nose is on the horizon, you need to let the plane fly normally.
This means increasing the pitch angle to get the nose pointing straight ahead.
After you do this, you should be able to land without another bounce. Floating is the least troublesome issue.
Simply holding the pitch attitude constant while decreasing airspeed requires increasing backpressure.
Landing normally once the airspeed drops sufficiently requires touching down gently. If the bottom falls out during the float, increase power to arrest the high descent rate. If too little runway remains, go around.
So, there you have it, a guide to landing a Cessna 172. I bet you’re dying to try it out. Time to take to the air, happy flying!