Landing a Boeing 737

There are many different techniques to landing a Boeing jet. There is the Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach, there is the instrument approach using VS, and then there is the instrument approach using VNAV. I was recently in the cockpit watching an engineer fly, and he used a completely different technique that is not even in the textbooks. When I questioned him, he said, “Hey, I know how this baby works, textbooks are for those namby pamby pilots.”

Learning how to land a Boeing 737 with minimal instruments and no engine power is probably the most fun though. A total manual landing is not easy especially if you switch OFF the onboard computers and engines, however it is possible. This plane is an excellent glider and you can glide her in and make a perfect runway landing without any problems.

I have always wanted to land the Space Shuttle but the Boeing with the engines chopped a mile away from the runway is as good as it gets. The 737 series is a very heavy jet plane and therefore landing on the runway in a cross wind, and no engine power is fun. I usually add some wind shear into the simulation just for fun.

Flight simulators do a great job of simulating the landing behaviour, and the only main difference I could tell is that the real thing appears to have more lights and knobs, but the cockpit is reasonably accurate.

How to Land a Boeing Properly

The technique is actually common sense. You need to have an approach parallel to the runway; otherwise, you cannot land on the runway. Simultaneously, the rate of descent has to be such that you are at the correct height when crossing the threshold of the runway. If you are too high up, you cannot land on the runway. If you can coordinate these two aspects of landing, then all your landings will be perfect without incidents.

Plan on being 3,000 feet AGL at 10 nautical miles from the airport, you should be close to intercepting the glide slope.

When you reach this 10-mile point, you want to slow down to around 170 knots by adjusting the pitch and flaps set to 5. At this point, you also need to start to descend slowly, by reducing thrust. Therefore, reduce engine power by a small amount, and keep the pitch level.

As the glideslope “comes alive”, extend the landing gear, increase flaps to 15, and slow to around 150 knots. At this point after capture, use thrust to control the speed, and pitch to control the rate of descent.

When you reach the final approach fix (FAF) where the glide slope needle moves one dot above centre, set final landing flaps to 30, engine power to 55 % N1, and pitch 2.5°.

Begin your pitch down to zero degree and monitor your position left or right relative to the localizer and high or low relative to the glide slope. Maintain your glide path and trim. At this point, your rate of descent should be between 550 fpm and 800 fpm. An excellent pilot usually manages to get 550 fpm to 600 fpm majority of the time. Anything above 1000 fpm is a crash landing and can seriously damage the landing gears.

As you cross the threshold of the runway, reduce engine power to idle (or chop them) and begin a smooth pitch up to 3° to perform a landing flare. Maintain control to keep lined up with the centreline as you flare. You need to apply that 3° pitch-up as soon as you chop the engines, this way the main landing gear (back wheels) touchdown first whilst the nose and the front wheel remains up. Hold this pitch setting as you bleed off the remaining speed. As the speed reduces, the front nose lowers down slowly and the front wheels make a smooth touchdown, in a similar fashion to the space shuttle landing.

A useful trick is to align the runway centreline with the letters “GPS” on the front panel, which will ensure the plane, touches down precisely on the centre line of the runway.

After touchdown, follow the Landing Roll Procedure (LRP). Raise the reverse thrust levers to the interlocks. At 60 knots, reduce the reverse thrust. Usually the pilot not flying calls this out.

On FS, press and hold the F2 key to apply reverse thrust.

On FS, press the period key to apply the brakes.

Thank you for flying Peter Vis Airlines. :-)

Critical Points

The most important part is the flare, because even if you do everything wrong, a flare helps to make an extremely smooth landing where the rate of descent is very small. However, with 3° nose-up, you will be looking at the sky for a short while and you will not have any visual clues, apart from your rate of descent reading. However, just keep your trim level and maintain stability, and let the nose come down by itself gently. Usually you can tell how experienced a pilot is by the smoothness of the landing.

WHOOP-WHOOP

One of the most critical parts of a landing is the rate of descent from 3,000 feet AGL because you need to be at the proper altitude when you approach the threshold of the runway. If you are too high up, you will miss the runway, and if too low, then you will land on the fields before you reach the runway. Therefore, the rate of descent is critical.

Usually, on the simulators, trainee pilots make the mistake of sinking, where the rate of descent is excessively high. If you start hearing warnings such as “TERRAIN” or “SINK RATE” or “WHOOP-WHOOP PULL UP”, then it means that the plane is dropping fast and will hit the ground. Thrust controls the rate of descent; therefore, to prevent meeting the ground, you need to increase thrust and hold the pitch-up. If I am walking around, I usually help them out.

EADI

Electronic Attitude Director Indicator (EADI) is a visual display providing information on pitch & roll, localiser deviations, and glideslope deviations. This is a very useful tool during landings as it provides visual alerts.

Radio Altitude Callouts

To make landing easier, you can get automatic reading callouts of the altitude, which is extremely useful.

Landing Videos

Manually Landing a 737 - Video Examples