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Managing Airspeed on Final

Source:, Featuring Wally Moran

Subscriber Question:

"How do you manage speed on using throttle or yoke? Do you fix yoke on landing spot and control speed with throttle or fix throttle and adjust speed with yoke?" - Dino L.


"This is like the question about the chicken and the egg, which came first?

While most pilots can demonstrate a satisfactory approach either way, the airplane flying handbook describes it this way. Since on a normal approach the power setting is not fixed as in a power off approach, the power and pitch attitude should be adjusted simultaneously as necessary to control the airspeed, and the descent angle. So there you go...the FAA won't commit either. But we all know it is a combination of both that gets the job done.

I emphasize pitch for airspeed in the pattern and on final, here is the scan I teach. Check airspeed, adjust pitch if needed, check aim point, adjust power if needed, trim, then back to airspeed and so on. Since every power change requires a trim change it is important to add the trim check to the scan. If a pilot is slow on final and they have been taught to adjust airspeed with power, I often see them add power but fail to hold the attitude, so the nose rises and instead of getting more airspeed, they just get a reduced rate of descent.

Many pilots want to point the airplane at the aim point and forget about airspeed. This is why when you are high you are also usually fast and when you are low, you are usually slow. That is why I make adjusting the airspeed with the elevator the first step. You can't tell where you are going to land unless you are at the proper speed.

Another advantage of doing it this way is that it works for power on as well as power off approaches. You just substitute the adjust power step to adjust pattern. By the way that's how it is done in gliders."

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