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There is a resounding obsession within aviation that a nice, smooth, soft landing is the sign of a great pilot. This is the ultimate sign that the pilot is skilled. A pilot can easily achieve a spontaneous round of applause from the cabin if he touches down as softly as your head hitting your pillow.

Uh, ok…

A while ago I got in debate with someone about this exact subject. This individual was spotting at an airport and was judging the skill of the pilots based on how softly they nestled on the asphalt.

He continued to explain to me how a certain airline was firmly planting their wheels on each landing, and how pilots are not skilled. This was a slant at that particular airline as a result.

Flying isn’t about a squeaker-of-a-landing at the end of a flight. A pilot’s skill should be measured on his safety record, humility to human factors, and decision making skills; not his ability to do a perfect landing.

“What makes a perfect landing” is up for debate.

Can you imagine the pilots wanting to touch down smoothly on this one? Good luck, Champ! Hope you have enough runway left after your soft landing.


Do you think these guys care how soft their landing is? US Navy Aviators are known as some of the best in the world.


What about this guy? Although it’s unfair of me to speculate, the pilot in this video probably could given a bit more authority on controls. Then again, why did the crew decide to land in these winds anyway? Perhaps I shouldn’t judge. Everyone ended up safe. Maybe the lesson is that there is a time not to land ‘here’ and go ‘somewhere else’


Watch this guy come in too high, too fast, and try to do a greaser landing for the camera. Almost bit the dust.


Here’s a mix of both. Obviously a very challenging place to land.


This is the kind of pilot I want around.


And another awesome example.


There’s a saying out there that goes something along the lines of, ‘Any landing is great as long as you can walk away from it’. While that’s funny and partially true, what’s the point of bending up an airplane?

The landing phase of the flight is a very dangerous time, not only because of it’s close proximity to the ground, but also because things are moving very quickly. There is very little margin for error.

Some of the things pilots have to be concerned about during the final landing phase of a flight, and the actual landing part of the flight are as follows:

  • Traffic in the Air
  • Aircraft Configuration
  • Airspeed
  • Final ‘Panic’ Check
  • Winds
  • ATC Compliance
  • Traffic on the Ground
  • Touchdown Point
  • Taxiway Turnoff
  • Parking

It gets even more dangerous when you’re talking about doing an instrument approach, because at this time you have to consider the possibility that you will never see the runway, and therefore cannot land. Now you must do a missed approach.

So, with those factors in mind, I’d rather be a pilot that could be aware of all of my surroundings and manage those things to bring the ship down safely, smooth landing or not.

What do you consider a good landing? Have any other points, or questions?

This article was posted in AOA, Blog

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  • Well, I’ve always been told early in my flying career. Planes are tested to absorb a certain amount of force on landings. Things won’t break unless it’s repetitive or extremely severe.

    A wise professor once told me, a good landing is one you can walk away from, a great landing is one you can use the plane again.

    Just a little comment for you guys 🙂


  • David Adams

    I agree that a good landing is one you can walk away from. Okay, a plane went intact into the ocean at the end of the runway in Guanabara Bay August 12, 2010. It was almost entirely underwater. No one was seriously hurt, but from the picture, they had to swim away, not walk away. Can we count landings where they swim away as a good landing? ;^)

  • Emf_85


    this is fantastic and as an apprentice pilot i would have to go agree with the above satement

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