How To Land an RC Airplane

Getting your RC airplane back on the ground safely is arguably the most difficult task in flying model airplanes.

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Tips and Tricks for Landing Your Plane

You've heard it before, take offs are optional, landings are mandatory. Once you've decided to get your plane in the air, you have no choice but to land it at some point. Getting your RC airplane back on the ground safely is arguably the most difficult task in flying model airplanes. Here's a few tips I wanted to offer for those wanting to improve their landing skills. I'll also link to a great thread about landings below. If you have any thoughts on landings, be sure to post them for others to learn from.

Know Your Plane:

The first step in landing is to know your airplane. I'm talking about knowing its characteristics and abilities. Some planes are inherently easier to land than others. Does your plane require speed and a wheel landing? Or can it float to a landing without power and touchdown at a crawl? Do some research on your plane before you fly and watch some videos if available to get a general idea of what you are in for so you can be prepared.

Setting Up for Success:

Think about how you make your final approach to landing. You might make adjustments depending on your runway size, flight area and wind direction. Always land into the wind, but think about other things like the best way to line up down the runway. Are there any obstacles in the way? How far away should you be? How high should the approach start? You want to get lined up straight down the middle of the runway and make any corrections needed to keep it there as you bring the plane in.

Touchdown:

As the plane gets closer to the ground and is about to touchdown, you'll have more information available. You'll have a better idea of where you are over the ground. You can tell if your speed is too fast or too slow. Now is the time to make a decision. Don't get locked into a landing. If it doesn't feel or look right, don't force it, just power up and go around for another try. There's no shame in that and it's a much better choice than making a bad landing and damaging your plane. If everything looks good and feels right, then you can focus on the touchdown. Judge the approach angle and speed and flare when close to the ground to slow the descent angle. Ideally, you'll touch down gently and roll out smoothly.

Don't Stop Being a Pilot:

You are the pilot and in control so don't stop flying when the wheels touch the ground. Things can still go wrong here. Maybe you hit harder than you wanted and the plane bounced back into the air. Maybe there's a bit of a crosswind and the plane wants to slide or lift a wing while rolling out. Maybe you are using up too much runway and need to turn before you run the plane off the edge. The point is, until you taxi back or come to a complete stop, you need to be actively on the controls and ready to tackle any situation that comes up.

Here's a great thread with more landing advice you can check out

Last edited by Jason Cole; Apr 06, 2021 at 08:10 AM..
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Apr 06, 2021, 09:00 AM
Cajun-American
Boogie_'s Avatar
The only problem I see in articles/threads like this is the use of the word "flare".

Although I know full scale pilots use this term, RC pilots tend to think that there needs to be a nose high "flare" at touch down. Which depending on the plane may apply.

I see it all the time in vids from the local park to Top Gun evens. The pilot is pumping the elev all the way in causing the plane to porpoise till it hits the ground.

I've taught all my students to do what the full scale pilots do. ...and I never use the word flare.
And a few clicks of up trim on the downwind leg, cut power as needed on approach.
Let the nose drop and stay nose down until you reach the runway.
Add and hold elev pressure and try to fly as level with the ground as long as possible (this is what an actual flare is). The plane will land itself.

And depending on the plane it may or may not be nose high.
My jets touch down at a high alpha, while my Cub floats in level on the mains.

As a bonus the added up trim makes for a perfect take-off and climb out on the next flight.

One thing that has really sharpened my landing skills over the years has been float flying.
The water is very unforgiving. Every landing has to be a greaser.
Apr 06, 2021, 09:06 AM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
Good point. I guess it depends on each person's definition of "flare." For me it just means to slow the descent rate to an acceptable level. The angle of attack can vary based on the plane as you noted. Good stuff.
Apr 06, 2021, 11:47 AM
1946 PIPER J3C-65 N70961
OHIOM38A1's Avatar
“If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.”
— Bob Hoover
Apr 06, 2021, 12:22 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
I really like Boggie's description for holding off rather than flaring. I think that describes the problem with a lot of landing antics I've seen.

The other error often seen is folks that do a shallow dive and think the model will magically slow down. In some cases with draggy designs it does. With other cleaner shapes all that happens is the model speeds down the whole length of the runway with no sign of thinking about coming down.

Which brings us back to Jason's write up in the first post about proper planning and following the plan for a good landing.
Apr 06, 2021, 12:50 PM
Registered User
E-Challenged's Avatar
It's safer with a tail-dragger design to trim for a slight nose-down attitude and gradually reduce power to let model settle down so main wheels touch runway, continue to steer with rudder and reduce power until tail wheel settles to the ground, raise elevator to keep tail down and steering with tail wheel. Keep a small amount of power on during landing to help rudder to keep steering.
That's my story and.........
Apr 06, 2021, 03:26 PM
DFS#000178
Rampage's Avatar
You mean you don't just hold the SAFE button down until something happens?
Apr 06, 2021, 04:19 PM
Registered User
dalecheek1's Avatar
All of my landings and takeoffs are short......
SE5a EASY FLYING (5 min 13 sec)
Apr 06, 2021, 04:29 PM
JohnVHRC
JohnVH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dalecheek1
All of my landings and takeoffs are short......
https://youtu.be/e56c_ydRSZE
Ofcourse your trying to hover a WWI warbird... haha
Latest blog entry: Will DRACO hover nose down?
Apr 06, 2021, 04:38 PM
Registered User
dalecheek1's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnVH
Ofcourse your trying to hover a WWI warbird... haha
Of course hahaha Only 3 or 4 seconds but doable with stock plane...It will KE also at full throttle Scale only people at club had panic attacks when i did minor 3D with this plane .Does good inverted also
Apr 07, 2021, 11:45 AM
Registered User
Landing simply depends on too many factors. Therefore any advice or theories are nice and will fill many pages, but at the end there is only one thing that helps:

PRACTICE

Stop thinking about weather, wind direction, weekday, lawn condition etc. Just go out flying in any condition. You will find that one fine day you no longer need to think. You just do it.

An important point for modern modelers: get familiar with your models, instead of permanently buying new stuff.
H.
Apr 07, 2021, 01:24 PM
Modeling Retread
Landing practice is critical. It should be a routine part of understanding a new airplane. In that I agree with Holger. However, there are other things to do.

One thing is to get used to flying close to yourself, as required when landing. There is a natural tendency to tense up as a moving object approaches you. This can have a negative impact on how you land. A smaller lightweight plane with good stability to fly slow is an excellent partner in this. A high wing BNF or Flite Test plane would be a good partner in this activity. Figure out how to fly it slowly at a safe altitude then translate that flying to right above the runway near your flight position. When you get used to flying past straight and level, add some mild maneuvering. The idea here is keep you mind on flying at this critical altitude and location.

Another thing to do is watch videos of crashes for mistakes. One common mistake, for instance, is with warbirds when the trying to achieve a full stall landing. You see it in the videos, where the plane suddenly loses control authority. Compared that to the ones doing wheel landings and you see the correct approach. Just try to understand the mistakes you see, rewind as necessary, until you understand what happened. You can also reproduce them with your plane, at a safe altitude of course.
Apr 07, 2021, 01:35 PM
JohnVHRC
JohnVH's Avatar
The biggest thing people screw up, is everything leading up to the landing. Go to an airport and see how full scale planes land, not big jets, but cessnas/pipers, etc... The downwind to short final. Do the same thing and flare.
Latest blog entry: Will DRACO hover nose down?
Apr 07, 2021, 01:58 PM
Retired USAF
Cobra1365's Avatar
I was a big contributor to the linked page. But, I really like this part.

Quote:
Don't get locked into a landing. If it doesn't feel or look right, don't force it, just power up and go around for another try. There's no shame in that and it's a much better choice than making a bad landing and damaging your plane.
You can always go around song (2 min 56 sec)
Apr 08, 2021, 10:32 AM
Registered User
E-Challenged's Avatar
It always surprises me when watching "pros" at big scale contest botching landings so badly. So many excellent builders are such awful pilots and/or have stage fright in front of many spectators.
Another factor may be overweight scale models and higher stall speeds. Then there's "retracts" that don't where one or both don't "un-retract".


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