Flying the Twin Comanche has me routinely managing my approach speeds precisely right down over the runway threshold everytime. I have observed a number of pilots that seem to prefer landing at the slowest possible touchdown speeds on every landing. Short field landings every time. Looking for the smoothest touchdown possible with the shortest roll-out.

Sounds good on the face of it. You impress your passengers and exit the runway with minimum drama. The concern, however, centers around the inappropriate application of this technique that results in the pilot getting too low and/or too slow too early. The time you spend in this condition exposes you to a number of risks during the entire experience.

The technique that concerns me – low and slow with constant power – is easier to apply for the pilot. Its cheating, in my view, by dragging your butt across the threshold at an almost nil descent rate; adjusting with power. You cut the power over the numbers and you are all done. This is easier because you don’t need to be as precise and you have more time. It always works; unless you lose an engine; encounter a gust of wind; or the runway suddenly becomes contaminated. Should one of these occur, you may need to maneuver and add high power all at once, which could get rather exciting rather quickly. I think you may be unlikely to get hurt in most scenarios I have considered, but you could well prang the bird.

The better short field landing approach includes staying high and slow with constant power (or no power) and a consistent angle of descent. This is more difficult to apply, requiring the pilot to have a steady hand and to get the timing of his/her flare just right. Not terribly challenging, but the timing of the flare has less fat built into it than a higher energy approach, or the low angle with power. It is harder to get right all the time, and you may jar a filling in one of your passengers face from time to time.

For normal landings where you want to impress your friends (smooth over short), I’d rather see you use less than full flaps; a higher approach speed; and more precise pitch and flare control close to the ground. Less flaps mean smoother landings since you have more time to flare and the energy bleeds off more slowly. Fly the extra energy out until the aircraft is ready to land.

For a Cherokee (140/160/180), 80kts over the threshold with 25 degrees of flaps works just fine. Popping out of the clouds in my PA28-161, I’d routinely come in hot over the threshold at 90kts and bleed off the airspeed right over the runway – no flaps. Lots of control and plenty of time with the typical ILS length runway. Let the mains kiss, and pop a wheely for aerodynamic braking. For an SR20, 80kts should work with no flaps; or 75 with 50% or more gives you enough energy for precise control. Ditto the wheelie. The Twin Comanche comes over the fence at 105mph (blue line) until a few seconds from touchdown when I reduce the power and transition to the flare. I use aerodynamic braking there too, but am less likely to pop wheelies for too long. Forget the rumors – the Twin Comanche lands just like a Warrior… just fly the thing and stop thinking about it.

The risk I sense is similar to flying a twin during the time of take-off until you reach blue line with the gear coming up; or hovering a helicopter in the dead mans curve (I am dredging up my one hour of helicopter experience here). These are higher risk times where you need to be on your game. Minimize your risk by minimizing the time you spend in these zones; don’t go dragging it in.

Practice: Next time you fly do several no flap landings at a higher than normal approach speed. Show yourself that you can manage that energy and still get a smooth touchdown. Play with high angle and no power approaches too, to get your timing just right for the low energy flare.

Something to think about.


By fdorrin

Fully retired now, unless something interesting comes along. I’ve enjoyed a lucrative career as an Electrical Engineer, Certified Software Solutions Developer, and Project Manager. An excellent and fun career that I’m very proud of. I began flying commercially in Dash-8 aircraft for Piedmont Airlines, and moved on to instruct in the Gulfstream 280; WestWind; and Astra jet aircraft. I’ve also been blessed with a type rating in the B-25 bomber in a fortunate turn of events. My wife, Beverly, and I currently own and operate a beautifully restored PA30 Twin Comanche, which we use to explore the CONUS.