Hard Landing? It’s all in the eyes!

During the approach, flare, and touchdown, vision is very important. To provide good peripheral vision and good judgment of height and movement, the pilot’s head should assume a natural, straight-ahead position. The pilot’s visual focus should not be fixed on any one side or any one spot ahead of the airplane, but should be changing slowly from a point just over the airplane’s nose to the desired touchdown zone and back again, while maintaining a deliberate awareness of distance from either side of the runway within the pilot’s peripheral field of vision. Accurate estimation of distance is a matter of practice, and requires that the pilot be focused properly in order that the important objects stand out clearly. The distance at which the pilot’s vision is focused is proportionate to the groundspeed of the aircraft. So as the speed is reduced during the flare, the distance ahead of the airplane where you should be focusing will be brought closer accordingly. If the pilot attempts to focus on a reference that is too close or looks directly down, the reference will become blurred and the reaction will be either too abrupt or too late. In this case, the pilot’s tendency will be to over control, round out high, and make full-stall, drop-in landings. When the pilot focuses too far ahead, accuracy in judging the closeness of the ground is lost and the pilot’s reaction will be too slow since there will not appear to be a need for action. This will result in the airplane flying into the ground nose first. The change of visual focus from a long distance to a short distance requires a definite time interval and even though the time is brief, the airplane will still travel an appreciable distance, both forward and down. If your focus is changed gradually, and is brought progressively closer as speed is reduced, the time interval and the pilot’s reaction will be reduced, and the whole landing process smoothed out.

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