Soft Field Approach and Landing

   Landing on fields that are rough or have soft surfaces, such as snow, sand, mud, or tall grass requires unique techniques. When landing on such surfaces, the pilot must control the airplane in a manner that the wings support the weight of the airplane as long as practical, to minimize drag and stresses imposed on the landing gear by the rough or soft surface.

   The approach for the soft field landing is similar to the normal approach used for operating into long, firm landing areas. The major difference between the two is that during the soft field landing, the airplane is held 1 to 2 feet off the surface as long as possible to dissipate the forward speed sufficiently to allow the wheels to touch down gently at minimum speed.

   The use of flaps during soft field landings will aid in touching down at minimum speed and is recommended whenever practical. In low wing airplanes, however, the flaps may suffer damage from mud, stones, or slush thrown up by the wheels. If flaps are used, it is generally inadvisable to retract them during the after landing roll because the need for flap retraction usually is less important than the need for total concentration on maintaining full control of the airplane.

   The final approach airspeed used for short field landings is equally appropriate to soft field landings, but there is no reason for a steep angle of descent unless obstacles are present in the approach path. Touchdown on a soft or rough field should be made at the lowest possible airspeed with the airplane in a nose high pitch attitude.

   In tailwheel type airplanes, the tailwheel should touch down simultaneously with or just before the main wheels, and then should be held down by maintaining firm back elevator pressure throughout the landing roll. This will minimize any tendency for the airplane to nose over and will provide aerodynamic braking.

   In nosewheel type airplanes, after the main wheels touch the surface, the pilot should hold sufficient back elevator pressure to keep the nosewheel off the ground until it can no longer aerodynamically be held off the field surface. At this time the pilot should very gently lower the nosewheel to the surface. A slight addition of power during and immediately after touchdown usually will aid in easing the nosewheel down.

   The use of brakes on a soft field is not needed and should be avoided as this may tend to impose a heavy load on the nose gear due to premature or hard contact with the landing surface, causing the nosewheel to dig in. It may also tend to cause a noseover in a tailwheel type airplane. The soft or rough surface itself will provide sufficient reduction in the airplane's forward speed. Often it will be found that upon landing on a very soft field, the pilot will need to increase power to keep the airplane moving and from becoming stuck in the soft surface. - Aviation Library
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