Powered Parachute Flying Handbook

Chapter 11 — Approaches and Landings

Estimating Height and Movement

During the approach, roundout, and touchdown, vision is of prime importance. To provide a wide scope of vision and to foster good judgment of height and movement, your head should assume a natural, straight-ahead position. Your visual focus should not be fixed on any one side or any one spot ahead of the powered parachute, but should be changing slowly from a point just over the powered parachute’s nosewheel to the desired touchdown zone and back again, while maintaining a deliberate awareness of distance from either side of the runway within your peripheral field of vision. Accurate estimation of distance is, besides being a matter of practice, dependent upon how clearly objects are seen; it requires that vision be focused properly for the important objects to stand out as clearly as possible.

Speed blurs objects at close range. For example, consider the view from an automobile moving at high speed. Nearby objects seem to merge together in a blur, while objects farther away stand out clearly. The driver subconsciously focuses the eyes sufficiently far ahead of the automobile to see objects distinctly. In the same way, the distance at which the powered parachute pilot’s vision is focused is normally adjusted automatically.

If you attempt to focus on a reference that is too close or look directly down, the reference will become blurred, and the reaction will be either too abrupt or too late. In this case, your tendency will be to overcontrol, round out high, and make drop-in landings. When you focus too far ahead, accuracy in judging the closeness of the ground is lost and the consequent reaction will be too slow since there will not appear to be a necessity for action. This will result in flying into the ground without flaring.


The powered roundout is a slow, smooth transition from a normal approach descent rate to a landing descent rate, gradually rounding out the flightpath to one that is parallel with, and within a very few inches above the runway. When the powered parachute is in a normal descent, within what appears to be 10 to 20 feet above the ground, the powered roundout should be started. Once started, it should be a continuous process until the powered parachute touches down on the ground.

As the powered parachute reaches a height above the ground where a timely change can be made into the proper landing descent, power should be gradually applied to slowly decrease the rate of descent. [Figure 11-3]

The rate at which the roundout is executed depends on the powered parachute’s height above the ground and the rate of descent. A roundout started excessively high must be executed more slowly than one from a lower height to allow the powered parachute to descend to the ground. The rate of rounding out must also be proportionate to the rate of closure with the ground. When the powered parachute appears to be descending very slowly, no increase in power settings is called for.

Visual cues are important in rounding out at the proper altitude and maintaining the wheels a few inches above the surface until eventual touchdown. Visual cues are primarily dependent on the angle at which your central vision intersects the ground (or runway) ahead and slightly to the side. Proper depth perception is a factor in a successful flare, but the visual cues used most are those related to changes in runway or terrain perspective and to changes in the size of familiar objects near the landing area such as fences, bushes, trees, hangars, and even sod or runway texture. You should direct central vision at a shallow downward angle of from 10° to 15° toward the runway as the roundout is initiated.

Maintaining the same viewing angle causes the point of visual interception with the runway to move progressively rearward toward you as the powered parachute loses altitude. This is an important visual cue in assessing the rate of altitude loss. Conversely, forward movement of the visual interception point will indicate an increase in altitude, and would mean that power was increased too rapidly, resulting in floating. In most powered parachutes, the front wheel can easily be seen and can be used as an indicator of how far the main wheels are above the runway.

In some cases, it may be necessary to advance the throttle slightly to prevent an excessive rate of sink which would result in a hard, drop-in type landing. You should keep one hand on the throttle throughout the approach and landing, in case a sudden and unexpected hazardous situation requires an immediate application of power.

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