All runways are the same(sort of)


Training with a student this morning, I came across a very common misconception.  He was having trouble with landings at a different airport and said, “I hate this airport, the runways are different…”

How hard is it to park a car in a different lot, with spaces that face a different direction than your normal office lot?  It’s not!  You still have to put the car in the middle and pointed straight!

How hard is it to land at a different airport with runways that face a different direction or are a different size than your home airport?  It’s not! – All runways are the same as far as landing technique and the visual approach never changes!

For every runway the following is true:

1. You need to land centered

2. You need to land with the nose lined up with the direction of the runway(…No ercoupe comments please…)

3. You need to maintain the same stabilized airspeeds

4. You need to judge your height by looking at the runway #’s or touchdown zone on final.  If the numbers move up in your windshield you are low, if they move down you are high, if they just get bigger you are on a stable glidepath.

Here’s where people tend to get in trouble, a different runway width, direction or at a different airport can cause people to stop focusing on the four basics listed above.  There’s a really popular airport at Catalina Island on top of a small mountain(KAVX) where the runway is bent in the middle(elevation change) and with cliffs on three sides.  I hear every day how hard Catalina is to land at. 

No difference to me and I’ve never found it any harder than any other runway.  I have to use the exact same airspeeds, configuration, power setting, and crosswind corrections I do on any runway and I focus my vision on the exact same touchdown point.  It’s only when you, focus on how things around the airport look different and stop flying the basics that it becomes “hard”.

Yes there are slight differences in the touchdown and braking on short and soft runways, but the overall concept is always going to stay constant.