Touch and Go's
Pilots seek to enhance their skills and proficiency
levels in a variety of ways. One method that was
used in the initial flight training environment was
the "touch and go." At some flight schools the
student rarely actually landed the aircraft, they
just did touch and go's.
As pilots mature and move up to more complex
equipment, my observation is that many attempt to
replicate in the more complex and powerful airplane,
those things they did in the training aircraft.
(i.e. they revert to the way they were trained
Sometimes what they learned in basic flight training
may not be appropriate to the equipment they are now
flying. Specifically, touch and go's in a complex
high performance aircraft. There are issues to deal
with that weren't in the equation in a simple Cessna
150 or 172, or Cherokee Archer. Landing gear
extension and retraction, higher-powered engines
with more torque and greater left turning
tendencies, and greater flap effect are just a few.
What are we trying to accomplish by doing a touch
and go in a high performance retractable gear
Are we trying to learn how to land the aircraft?
Are we trying to practice landings, or are we
Neither? I guess neither, since a touch and go does
not properly replicate either a landing or a
Landing a high performance complex airplane is
really no different than landing in any other
airplane, expect that there are more things for the
pilot to do, especially if you really have no
intention of landing. You are not mentally prepared
to land the aircraft at all, as you have no
intention of slowing and exiting the runway.
Downwind you set up the aircraft and perform your
before landing check. "GUMP" Gas, undercarriage,
mixture and prop. Undercarriage? Prop? We didn't
find those in our initial training aircraft.
As a hypothetical, let's say the correct IAS numbers
for landing your P-210 are 100 downwind, 90 on base,
and 80 on final. If you can't get a handle on all
the other factors during the landing phase, if you
can hit those numbers, and do a smooth round-out
(flare to some) after you enter ground effect, you
should score a fine landing.
But, does a touch and go in a Cessna P/T-210 or a
retractable 182 equate to practicing an actual
landing? Even if you land and stop on the runway,
reconfigure the aircraft, and then do a takeoff
(which isn't a touch and go - but a stop and go) it
is not a normal flight operation that you would do
when going on an actual flight, because you won't
take off half or three quarters of the way down the
runway. By taking off half way down the runway you
have removed valuable distance from your safety
equation in the event of an engine anomaly on
Few things are more different when flying a complex
airplane than doing a landing and doing a touch and
go. In one case (the touch and go) we have no
intention of landing and stopping the aircraft. In
the other, we intend to land the aircraft, taxi it
off the runway and stop, versus the touch and go in
which we get the mains on the ground and then start
reconfiguring the moving aircraft while looking
outside (and inside to see what we are grabbing) and
trying to get it back into the air.
Look at what is required to take a P210 landing with
full flaps (as it should), to do a touch and go.
Watch the pilot try to hold the nose down as he
applies full power to "go-around" during his touch
and go while he still has his flaps down. Note the
airplane turning left while still on the runway and
shortly after liftoff. At the same time he is trying
to get the airplane to lift off, he is reaching to
position the flaps to takeoff setting, get the cowl
doors open, get in nose down trim, etc. etc. Yup, a
touch and go is just like a landing. That is so not
When we are really intending to land, we have a
different mindset, and a whole different set of
events to complete. We want to touch down on
centerline, main wheels first, holding the nose
wheel 3-5 inches off the runway for as long as we
can, and after the airspeed has dropped below the
white arc on the airspeed indicator (so that we
don't smoke a tire), gently applying braking to slow
us sufficiently to exit the runway without putting
excessive side load on the landing gear, and
allowing us to stop completely as soon as we cross
the runway hold line. Then we use the "clear of
runway" section of our checklist to reconfigure the
aircraft before calling ground for taxi clearance to
Should we ever perform touch and go's in a high
performance complex airplane as a method to teach
someone to land the aircraft? Is this type of
aircraft really landed until it is clear of the
runway and stopped? Perhaps the only way to learn
how to "land" these types of aircraft is to practice
full stop landings. Land, clear the runway and stop.
One of the advantages of practicing full stop
landings is that you practice flying the airplane
with the mental intent of actually landing the
aircraft and safely exiting the runway. That is the
goal. The goal is not to get some wheel(s) on the
ground and then send the aircraft back in the air
again for another trip around the pattern. Full
stop landings and taxi-backs also allow us to
practice checklist discipline, using the checklist
at every phase of flight, including after we clear
the runway and stop, and again before we takeoff,
whether or not another run-up is needed.
When we practice flying, we should practice what we
are trying to accomplish. The goal in this case? A
landing that culminates in a beautiful touchdown and
a safe exit from the runway. A landing where the
mains touch down with just a squeak off each tire as
they touch down simultaneously and a gentle dip as
the nose wheel touches down when full up elevator
can no longer hold it clear of the runway, on
centerline. Those kinds of landings receive
favorable comments from the passengers every time,
and they should. That is how a professional pilot
lands. And I would hope that all private pilots
strive to fly professionally.
If we are practicing go-arounds, let's do that.
Let's practice them by initiating the go-around well
before the runway, just before reaching the runway,
just before the mains touch, just after the mains
are on the ground, and after the aircraft has all
three wheels on the ground. We intended to land, but
we have to go-around for whatever reason, be it
excessive crosswinds, the proverbial moose on the
runway, not enough runway remaining to stop, or
whatever else is thrown at us.
Performing touch and go's teach you how to do touch
and go's, an event that rarely occurs in real life
flying. Even if you do a thousand of them a year,
they won't teach you how to land and exit the
runway, handle that gusting crosswind as the
aircraft slows, or how to perform a go-around under
circumstances we normally experience in real life -
when the go-around is unexpected. The worst thing
about touch and go's is that you do them with no
intention of landing the aircraft in the first
place! How can that be practicing landings?
If you want to practice landings, practice landings!
Clear the runway and critique the landing yourself.
Then go back and make the next one better!
CFI, CFII, MEI
Aviation Safety Counselor