How to Land a Cessna 172

Impress your friends on your aviation knowledge. Landing a plane is the most important part of a flight. Fly safe! These instructions assume you are approaching a towered airport for landing in a left traffic pattern, and the winds are calm and visibility is good.


  1. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 1
    Get the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) 10 miles (16 km) out from entry into the airspace. ATIS will give you a code such as "Information alpha" to give to tower. Contact the control tower or approach control for that airport, and state the following:
    • "tower/approach name, aircraft tail number, location, altitude, Landing with information whatever "ATIS" code you received above." The tower will give you instructions. This guide assumes they instructed you to take left (or right) traffic for Runway X and to report on 45 (45 degree downwind entry to runway being used). (This is a rough guideline, it's missing some specific information that tower sometimes asks for)

  2. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 2
    Do your pre-landing check with your checklist: Brakes checked, undercarriage down & locked, Mixture fully rich, Fuel selector on both, Flaps as required, (Propeller pitch fixed), Suction indicating, Oil Temps. and Press. (Ts&Ps) in green, Master on, Mags on both, (Carb. heat to HOT if RPM is below 1500RPM) Hatches & Harness' locked and latched, Landing lights on. PLANE CLEAR TO LAND
  3. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 3
    Apply Carb. Heat and make your descent to where you reach pattern altitude for that airport by the time you reach the 45° entry leg. You can be a little higher on the 45. Let's assume the pattern altitude is 1,200 feet (365.8 m) MSL. Try to descend at 500 feet per minute. That will be easier on your ear drums.
  4. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 4
    Reach the 45 and contact the tower and tell them how many miles you are out on the 45 and your altitude. The tower might clear you to land or will acknowledge.
  5. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 5
    Remember that when you reach 14 mile (0.4 km) from the runway, turn downwind. By now the tower should have cleared you to land. You should have slowed the plane to 80 to 85 knots and powered the engine to around 2000 rpms.
  6. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 6
    Know that when you are abeam the downwind runway numbers, turn on your carburetor heat on, power back to 1500 rpm. Hold the nose level until the airspeed drops into the white arc, then extend 10 degrees of flaps. Pitch for 75 knots using outside visual reference, then confirm with the airspeed indicator. Make sure you coordinate your turns with the rudder pedals. Be especially careful not to use excessive inside rudder however: skid + stall = spin!
  7. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 7
    When the threshold of the runway is 45° behind you, turn left base, and apply another 10 degrees of flaps. This should bring your airspeed down to 70 knots. Do not add flaps while in the turn; only after turn is complete. You are now perpendicular to the runway. Be especially careful not to overshoot your final turn at an airport with parallel runways, because the parallel runway might have landing traffic.
  8. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 8
    Turn Final. When the field is made (you would reach it even if the engine were to quit), extend the next 10 degrees of flaps (again, after the turn is complete). The spot on the ground where you will land will appear stationary. Use pitch to maintain approach speed (usually 60-70KIAS). Use power to control altitude. Be careful to keep airspeed above 60KIAS, but do not fixate on the airspeed indicator. Use the ailerons to correct for any crosswind and the rudder pedals to keep the plane aligned with the runway center-line.
  9. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 9
    When you are a few feet off the ground, gently power back and level off. Keeping level will require increasing amounts of back pressure on the yoke, and (increasing amounts of aileron in a crosswind). After touchdown keep the yoke pulled all the way back and to whichever side is needed for crosswind. Only apply the brakes if necessary (for field length or to avoid holding up other landing traffic). Continue on the runway centerline until you reach taxi speed (a fast walking pace), then turn off at the nearest taxiway and do not stop until you have passed the hold short line.
  10. Image titled Land a Cessna 172 Step 10
    Complete your post landing checks, then call tower if they have not called you already.


  • When in the flare/hold off (when just above the runway and "holding" the planes nose up as it slows down) look towards the end of the runway and maintain the horizontal distance between the dash and the horizon/end of runway for the entire hold off - the plane will slow and settle itself onto the runway. You may not be able to see the runway during the flare/hold off, use your peripheral vision and look out the side windows to see your position over the runway.
  • Have fun.
  • If you don't have at least a student pilot certificate, you can only go up with a flight instructor. Even then, you will need endorsements from a flight instructor on the back of your certificate and in your logbook stating you are qualified to fly solo.
  • If you are overshooting the runway, don't be afraid to go around. Apply full power and push to keep the airspeed up and the nose from coming up too high. Establish a positive rate of climb and clean up the airplane, flaps in stages. The difference between a good pilot and a fool is the willingness to make a go around.
  • Approach speeds will vary depending on the conditions (i.e. wind direction/velocity. Confirm with your instructor the speed at which the approach should be flown if unsure. You can also determine landing speed by doing stalls and approach to stalls. Approach speed, Vref, is typically 1.3 times stall speed, and an approach speed can be determined by multiplying stall speed by 3, moving the decimal point to the left one place, and then adding that value plus any additional speed increases as required for winds to the stall speed (i.e. a 50 mph (80 km/h) stall speed would have a 65 mph (105 km/h) Vref). Ensure that the airplane is configured for landing while doing the approach to stall. This technique is especially useful for older aircraft that have been modified over the years (a 1973 Cessna 172 is probably not going to fly the same as it did when it left the factory 40 years ago), if you're flying a new type of aircraft that you're not familiar with, or if you have a malfunction that changes normal wing performance (stuck flaps, lost panels, or a bird strike that leaves a large dent in the wing).


  • This is only a general guide. Ask your instructor about the specific procedures at your local airport.
  • If you don't know how to fly a plane, this can be dangerous.
  • Flying a plane without a pilot certificate is illegal and dangerous.
  • Don't fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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Categories: Cessna Aircraft | Landing Aircraft