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Video: This My Friends, Is How You Land An Airliner!

(yep, full screen is a very good idea)

 Sometimes you get the feeling that airline pilots are just bus drivers with little passion for the wonder of flight and the intricate relationship between man and machine when the bonds of gravity are broken. But then you see a video like this one that screams as loud as possible: I Love To Fly! Wow.

 First, thanx to youtuber 1970sPlaneSpotter for being at the right place at the right time, and for capturing it beautifully. But mostly, I tip my hat to whoever had their hand on the stick and throttles for this landing. I have several observations to share - see if you agree. First is the fact that they nearly perfectly arrested the rate of descent without having to hunt for where the runway is. In reality, it's not all that hard to reduce the rate of sink to a trickle, but to do it pretty much exactly when and where you want (as in close the the approach end of the runway) is actually rather difficult. But if you look closely, the point of touchdown is not very far down the runway at all. In fact, by my estimation, the point of touchdown was perfectly placed... not too close the the approach end, risking winding up short, and not too far down the runway so as to have wasted valuable rollout room.

 Ok, the point of touchdown is excellent. Then, watch how long the tires take to spool up to speed. That's your first clue it's an ultra soft touchdown, but it's followed immediately by your second clue - the front axle on the bogie doesn't come slamming down like usual, in fact, the airplane rides along on just the rear axles for a crazy long time! This is when you notice two things, the airplane is still flying, but it's also on the ground, and the rate of sink is slowed to a crawl. Wow. Again.

 Then as the camera pans the rollout, we get a close-up view of the nose gear. Here's the next interesting point: the nose is being held very high off the ground. Is this a "look at me, I'm cooler than you" 'show-off' move? I don't think so. Well, ok, technically all of this landing is yelling out that this pilot is cooler than me or you... but in reality, the nose appears to be held high as a very effective form of aerodynamic braking. Take all that big wing at a nice high angle of attack and then drag it down the runway at 130 mph and see how much drag it produces. Big, fat buckets of drag! Then, as the rest of the airplane comes back into view, you can see the elevator deflection, which by the time the nose wheels makes contact with the runway, appears to be at full deflection, or very near it. All the aerodynamic braking available was tapped into.

 So what we have here is the passengers arriving at their destination without knowing it because the touchdown was so soft... and then, due to the aerodynamic braking and the loads of runway ahead of us to use for gentle deceleration, nobody was doubled over in their seat from heavy braking and reverse thrust, which is often accompanied by some bobbing and a tad of weaving. Nope, instead, this big hunk of airplane gently strolled rather quietly, smoothly, and very straight down the runway. Now that's how you thank the passengers for flying with you today! Bravo for being easy on the airplane, and easy on the people. That's the way it should be done.

 One last point. Truth is, you can't always apply this collection of techniques when landing 350,000 pounds of airplane. Crosswinds, gusty or turbulent air, or a variety of other factors can demand that you use other tools from the pilots bag of tricks, but when the conditions are right, wow, this is how you land an airliner : )


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Reader Comments (8)

Flightbag-dropping amazing, Batman! I don't believe I've witnessed a smoother "heavy" landing ever!

For some reason, Simon Lowe manages to capture and document some of the most incredible aviation-related video-footage on the internet... many of which I've seen on FlightLevel350 over the past years.

Great post, Martt!

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWindtee

Windtee- Amazing is the word... what a privilege to be able to see it with such good detail too.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

They need a mop to get all the grease off the runway.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin

And one of the funniest parts of landings like this - I've been lucky enough to have a few - is that the flying pilot is just as surprised as everyone else when those wheels touch down this way.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob Mark

Rob Mark- My dad got over 10,000 hours on the 747 alone, and I remember he was always thrilled when in the cockpit they couldn't tell when the old girl was on the ground until the spoiler handle moved... even they couldn't tell on the really good ones : )

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

Well, I almost hate to bring it up, but the smoothest landing I ever rode through was on an L-1011 at Schiphol. The pilot announced that Amsterdam had heavy fog (big surprise there), but it wasn't a problem because the aircraft was equipped for Cat 3 auto-land. Back in the cabin, I never saw the runway lights until we were on the ground and couldn't tell we had touched down until he got on the brakes a little. The captain was pleased with the result and made some remark over the PA about how that wouldn't have been possible without the miracles of modern technology.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterairpigz lurker

Marvin, that "grease" comment rocks!

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWindtee

LOL Marvin... One mop coming right up!!

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

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