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Slip on Final Approach?

Source:, Featuring Bob Martens

Subscriber Question:

"I was directed by ATC to do a very 'short final' one day. I needed to lose altitude quickly to affect a proper landing. I used a slip on 'base' while applying flaps simultaneously. I felt fully in control and safe, but always wondered if I should have waited to slip until on 'final.' Is there a preferred method/sequence for short final if one has to lose altitude quickly?" - John

Bob Martens:

"I’d like to break this question into several parts. First and foremost, ATC should never direct a pilot to a very short final! This could literally create a very serious safety issue for many pilots. Their failure to plan should never create an issue for pilots!

If asked by ATC to speed up, slow down, perform a 360, etc, and this request does not fit your individual situation due to task saturation, proficiency, skill level, or any other reason simply reply UNABLE. It may delay your approach, but better a delay than a tragic result from an unexpected request.

Secondly, let’s learn from the airlines. They demand a stabilized approach from their professional, well trained pilots. The definition may vary from airline to airline, but the intent is clear. Don’t be chasing the aircraft to the runway! There are many tiger pilots out there that love a challenge such as this. But, consider the downside. Most aviation fatalities occur from loss of control at low altitude/airspeed. How do you stabilize the aircraft while slipping and configuring while in a turn? That’s asking a lot from most pilots!

Many pilots are very comfortable and confident slipping an aircraft on final. That comes from practice, and lots of it! The very fact that you are raising this issue indicates that when asked by ATC to perform this action it created another question in your mind. Who needs a distraction such as this on final approach?

One additional thought! Some manufacturers specifically placard their aircraft that slips are not allowed with flaps extended. Not sure if that’s their lawyers or their safety folks speaking, but it is a reality we must acknowledge.

Pilots are Risk Managers. Trust your instincts. When challenged by ATC or anyone else to try something you think questionable, don’t do it!

Challenging yourself to be the best pilot you can be is very important. This should be done in a training environment with an instructor. That’s how we strengthen our foundation and grow as aviators."

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