Landing Performance


  • Landing performance starts with the descent
  • Performance depends on several factors, most of which are based on engineering data and can be determine by referencing performance charts
  • There are of course variables that must be considered such as hydroplaning
  • Deep tread or channels may allow up to 2 inches of water before hydroplaning occurs
  • If you experience hydroplaning, GO-AROUND!
  • Speed depends on tire pressure, not weight
    • This is because a heavier airplane creates a larger "footprint," spreading the load
    • Minimum total hydroplaning speed (knots) = 9 x square root of tire inflation pressure (psi)

Descent Planning:

Landing Distance Variables:

  • Flight Profile Flown:

    • Landing profiles are procedures and settings as recommended by your Pilot Operating Handbook/Pilot Information Manual
    • These conditions and settings for performance data will be labeled on the chart and consist of factors such as weight, flap settings, approach speeds
  • Temperature

  • Field Elevation/Altitude:

    • More specifically, density altitude
  • Winds

  • Runway Slope

  • Runway Surface Condition:

    • Pavement, grass, gravel, rubber slicks
    • Hydroplaning:

      • Dynamic Hydroplaning:
        • Dynamic hydroplaning occurs when standing water on a wet runway is not displaced from under the tires fast enough to allow the tire to make pavement contact over its total footprint area
        • The tire rides on a wedge of water under part of the tire surface
        • It can be partial or total hydroplaning, meaning the tire is no longer in contact with the runway surface area
        • It is possible that as the tire breaks contact with the runway that the center of pressure in the tire footprint area could move forward
        • At this point, total spin-down could occur and the wheel stops rotating, which results in total loss of braking action
        • The speed at which this happens is called minimum total hydroplaning speed
        • Vhydroplane = 9 √ (tire pressure) 
      • Viscous Hydroplaning:
        • Viscous hydroplaning can cause complete loss of braking action at a lower speed if the wet runway is contaminated with a film of oil, dust, grease, rubber or the runway is smooth
        • The contamination combines with the water and creates a more viscous (slippery) mixture
        • It should be noted that viscous hydroplaning can occur with a water depth less than dynamic hydroplaning, and skidding can occur at lower speeds, like taxiing during light rain, applying the brakes and rolling over an oil spill
        • With regards to rubber, consider that rubber is found primarily on the approach and departure end of the runway
      • Rubber Reversion Hydroplaning:
        • Rubber reversion hydroplaning is less known and is caused by the friction-generated heat that produces superheated steam at high pressure in the tire footprint area
        • The high temperature causes the rubber to revert to its uncured state and form a seal around the tire area that traps the high-pressure steam
        • It is theorized that this condition would occur on damp runways or when touchdown occurs on an isolated damp spot of a dry runway, which results in no spin-up of the tires and a reverted rubber skid
  • Tire Pressure

    • Braking effectiveness if a factor of tire pressure
    • Pressure also impacts the speed at which hydroplaning can occur
  • Inoperative Equipment

Determining Landing Distances:

  • Locate the aircraft performance charts within the POH/PIM
  • Note that most manuals will include an example with which you can follow if you're unsure of how to begin

Use of Flaps on Landing:

  • Flaps are considered high-lift devices
  • Use of flaps allow for the aircraft to fly a slower, steeper approach
  • When lowering flaps, you are changing the chord line which increases the angle of attack (AoA)
  • This increase in AoA causes the aircraft's wing to suddenly create more lift, and therefore the aircraft will "balloon"
  • When lowering flaps anticipate this balloon effect by being ready to lower the nose


  • Do not be afraid to delay landing
    • Under zero wind conditions, most runways have adequate cross-fall (rounding of the runway surfaces or crown) to provide drainage under high rates of precipitation
    • It appears that drainage can be seriously affected in crosswinds above 10 knots; however, a 15- to 20-minute waiting period after a downpour is usually sufficient to drain the water
  • Be knowledgeable of the many variables associated with landing under wet runway conditions:
    • Landing weather forecast
    • Aircraft weight and approach speed
    • Hydroplaning speed
    • Conditions of tires - if the tread depth of the tires on an aircraft is greater than the depth of the water on the runway, then hydroplaning will not occur. Knowledge of the general condition of the tires (why we do pre-flights) should be helpful in a qualitative sense when potential hydroplaning conditions are expected
    • Brake characteristics
    • Wind effects on the aircraft while landing on a wet runway (crabbing)
    • Runway length and slope
    • Glide path angle
  • Do not exceed 1.3 Vs plus wind additives at the runway threshold
  • Establish and maintain a stabilized approach
  • Maximum flaps provide minimum approach speeds
  • Be prepared to go around from the threshold
  • Do not perform a long flare
  • Do not allow the aircraft to drift during the flare
  • Touch down firmly and do not allow the aircraft to bounce
  • If a crosswind exists, apply lateral wheel control into the wind
  • Keep the aircraft centerline aligned with the runway centerline
  • Anti-skid braking should be applied steadily to full pedal deflection when automatic ground spoilers deploy and main wheel spin-up occurs. Do not modulate brake pressure
    • The anti-skid system will not operate until the main wheels of the aircraft spin... don't lock your brakes before touchdown
  • Be prepared to deploy ground spoilers manually if automatic deployment does not occur. Spoiler deployment greatly assists wheel spin-up during wet runway operations by materially reducing the wing lift and increasing the weight on the wheels, thus shortening your stopping distance
  • Apply maximum reverse thrust as soon as possible after main gear touchdown; this is when it is most effective
  • Get the nose of the aircraft down quickly
    • Do not attempt to hold the nose off for aerodynamic braking
  • Apply forward column pressure as soon as the nose-wheel is on the runway to increase weight on the nose-wheel for improved steering effectiveness. Do not, however, apply excessive forward column pressure because the down elevator will, to some extent, unload the main wheels and decrease braking effectiveness
  • If the aircraft is in a skid, align the aircraft centerline with the runway centerline if you can. Get off the brakes to maximize cornering capability and bring the aircraft back to runway center
    • If you are in a crab and cannot align aircraft centerline with runway centerline and attempted cornering is not effective, get out of reverse thrust to eliminate reverse thrust component side forces tending to push the aircraft off the side of the runway

Case Studies:

  • NTSB Identification: ERA13CA394: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's loss of directional control during takeoff due to right main landing gear contact with a pool of standing water on the runway which resulted in a runway excursion
  • NTSB Identification: CEN13LA02: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's decision to continue the landing after touching down long and on a wet runway that reduced the airplaneā€™s braking capability, which resulted in an overrun

Forward Slip to Landing:

All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Always fly in accordance with Pilot Operating Handbooks (POHs)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  • Forward slips to landing may be necessary to increase the rate of descent on final approach path without also increasing airspeed
  • Ensure that the flaps are set to the final setting and the throttle is in the idle position
  • Initiate the slip by simultaneously providing aileron input (bank) to lower a wing (upwind wing in a crosswind condition) and rudder input (yaw) in the opposite direction so that the longitudinal axis is at an angle to the original flight path
  • Maintain the appropriate amount of bank and yaw to maintain the extended runway centerline
  • Maintain the appropriate amount of bank and yaw to maintain the extended runway centerline
  • Note that the amount of slip (sink rate) is determined by the bank angle: the steeper the bank-the greater the descent rate-the greater (steeper) the descent angle-the greater the need for opposite direction yaw (rudder) up to the "practical slip limit" (banking capacity exceeds rudder effectiveness)
  • Adjust the pitch attitude, as appropriate to maintain airspeed
    • Trim as necessary
  • Note that because of the location of the pitot tube and static course, airspeed indicator error mayb e observed when performing slips
    • Recognize a properly performed slip by the airplane's attitude, sound of the airflow, and flight control feel
  • Prior to the roundout, discontinue the forward slip
  • Complete the appropriate approach and landing procedure

Determining Approach Rate of Descent:

  • It is necessary to determine the descent rate for a non-precision approach so that the aircraft reaches the MDA at a distance from the threshold that will allow landing in the touchdown zone
  • In order to determine the required rate of descent:
    • Subtract the Touchdown Zone Elevation (TDZE) from the Final Approach Fix (FAF) altitude
    • Divide the result by the time inbound
  • For example: If the FAF altitude is 2000' MSL, the TDZE is 400' MSL, and the estimated time inbound is two minutes, then a rate of descent of 800 FPM should be used [(2000-400)/2 = 800]
  • To verify the position from which a descent from MDA (on a 3° glide path) to a landing on the intended runway can be made:
    • Subtract the MDA from the TDZE
    • Divide the result by 300
  • For example: When an MDA of 800' MSL and a TDZE of 400' MSL, the position from which a descent from MDA to a landing should be initiated is approximately 1.3 NM from the threshold [(800-400)/300 = 1.3]
  • Note that the runway threshold should be crossed at a nominal height of 50' above the TDZE
  • To determine an approximate rate of descent to maintain a glideslope (precision approach), divide groundspeed by 2, and then multiply the result by 10
  • For example: 90 knots/2 = 45, 45 x 10 = 450 fpm


  • The flight is not over until the aircraft is chocked and the engine(s) turned off
  • With regard to viscous hydroplaning, consider where you will see that rubber build up
  • Hydroplaning is an extremely under appreciated and dangerous hazard which exists not only during, but after inclement weather
  • Rubber is not only on the approach end, but on the departure end of the runway
    • If you find yourself behind the aircraft scrambling to stop and you slam on the brakes over this rubber, you may do more harm than good!