CHAPTER 11. Approaches and Landings

Soft and Rough Field Approaches and Landings

Landing on fi elds that are rough or have soft surfaces, such as snow, sand, mud, tall grass, or a rocky/bumpy fi eld requires unique procedures. When landing on such surfaces, the objective is to touch down as smoothly as possible and at the lowest possible landing speed. The pilot must control the aircraft so that the wings support the weight of the aircraft as long as is practical to minimize drag and stresses imposed on the landing gear by the rough or soft surface.

Similar to the soft fi eld for takeoff, proper gear—specifi cally big tires with a large wing and overall low weight—should be utilized for soft or rough fi eld operations. Refer to appropriate gear and warnings in Chapter 7, Takeoff and Departure Climbs, for soft or rough fi eld operation as a prerequisite for this chapter.

The approach for the soft fi eld landing is similar to the normal approach used for operating into long, fi rm landing areas. The major difference between the two is that, during the soft or rough fi eld landing, the distance on the soft/rough fi eld is minimized and the weight is kept off the wheels by the lift of the wing when on the soft/rough fi eld. Power can be used throughout the level-off and touchdown to ensure touchdown at the lowest possible airspeed, with the WSC aircraft fl own onto the ground with the weight fully supported by the wings. The touchdown should be planned for minimal taxi distance to the stopping point so there is the shortest possible distance with weight on the landing gear on the rough/soft surface. [Figure 11-23]

Touchdown on a soft or rough fi eld should be made at the lowest possible airspeed with the aircraft in a nose-high pitch attitude. After the main wheels touch the surface, the pilot should hold bar-forward pressure to keep the nosewheel off the surface. Using forward control bar pressure and engine power, the pilot can control the rate at which the weight of the aircraft is transferred from the wings to the wheels.

Field conditions may warrant that the pilot maintain a fl ight condition where the main wheels are just touching the surface, but the weight of the aircraft is still being supported by the wings until a suitable taxi surface is reached. At any time during this transition phase, before the weight of the aircraft is being supported by the wheels and before the nosewheel is on the surface, the pilot should be able to apply full power and perform a safe takeoff (obstacle clearance and fi eld length permitting) should the pilot elect to abandon the landing. Once committed to a landing, the pilot should gently lower the nosewheel to the surface. A slight reduction of power usually helps ease the nosewheel down.

The use of brakes on a soft fi eld is not needed and should be avoided as this tends to impose a heavy load on the nose gear due to premature or hard contact with the landing surface causing the nosewheel to dig in. The soft or rough surface itself provides suffi cient reduction in the aircraft’s forward speed. Often upon landing on a very soft fi eld, the pilot needs to increase power to keep the aircraft moving and from becoming stuck on the soft surface.

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