Whilst majority of pilots and flight instructors have never operated on a truly soft field, there may come a time where a soft-field landing is necessary. We’ve listed some take-off and landing techniques to help you brush up on your skills.
When taking off on a soft-field, the aim is to get your wheels off the ground as soon as possible. There are two stages when it comes to soft-field take-offs. The first is while the airplane wheels are still on the ground.
During this stage, pilots should begin with applying full power to the aircraft, typically holding full back pressure. The airplane will accelerate and whilst this is occurring, pilots should hold the nose of the plane on the horizon. As a result of this, the airplane wheels will begin to lift.
During the second stage, pilots need to hold the airplane level and let it accelerate. At climb speed, the pilot will pitch up and climb away.
As each aircraft is different, pilots must ensure that short field take-off flaps are adjusted, as specified in the aircraft manual.
Once pilots reach around 200 ft in the air, they can retract the flaps and resume normal flying procedures.
When it comes to soft-field landings, there is only a slight modification to normal landing techniques required. The difference between normal and soft-field landings really only comes into play once pilots have touched down on the runway.
Similar to a short field landing, pilots must stabilise the approach. Careful attention should be paid to applying full back pressure (keeping the weight off the front nose wheel) until harder surface has been reached, or until the plane has stopped to park. Touching down at a minimum approach speed and keeping the weight on the main, back wheels, decreases the chances of putting too much stress on the nose wheel during touchdown and improves braking effectiveness.
There are four common problems with soft field landings to pay attention to. Firstly, the speed of the descent rate – too fast of a descent will cause a hard touchdown. Secondly, too much airspeed – this will cause excessive float. Thirdly, an unstable approach – this makes it difficult to touchdown smoothly. Finally, allowing the nose wheel to touchdown too early – this will cause excessive stress on the nose and wheel.
Now that you know a few details on how soft-field landings and take-offs work, do you think you’re ready to practice?
If you’d like to learn more aviation tips and practices, why not check out how to handle a radio failure mid-flight or how night flying illusions may affect your next night flight!