How Come I Always Land Left of Centerline with the Airplane Crooked?

Back in high school physics, you may have come across a concept called parallax, “the apparent displacement of an object as seen from two different points that are not on a line with the object”. Essentially it means that if you are trying to line up two points, you have to be in line with them or your perspective is skewed. In landing, we are trying to line up the center of the airplane with the runway centerline. If we were sitting dead center in the airplane, in line with the other two points, there would be no problem. But we are sitting a bit to the left, so it becomes more difficult. (BTW, CFI trainees tend to land to the right of the centerline for exactly the same reason)

Fortunately, the solution is easier than explaining the problem. Our eyes and brain are designed to adjust, if we do one simple thing: keep ourselves rather than the airplane centered. There are a number of ways to do this, using various parts of our body and the airplane. I teach three different ones due to differences in the way different people tend to visualize things:

  • centerline between the feet and square to the chest
  • centerline through the heart and square to the chest
  • centerline through the center of and square to the yoke.

Doesn’t matter if you like your nose or forehead or whatever better: the key is to line up something that is in the center of you rather than in the center of the airplane. Once we line ourselves up, then we use the rudder and ailerons as needed to keep us there.

Prove to yourself that it works: Pull the airplane out of its parking space and place it on a taxiway center line, absolutely centered and nose on the line. Get in. The taxi line will look like it’s between your legs (middle of your chest, centered with your nose…). Now move to the right seat – the taxi line will still be between your legs.

BTW, this is not the only way to solve the problem. In fact, it’s not the most common way. The more common way is to practice enough that you eventually figure out what the nose looks like when everything is fine. Only problem is that you have to figure it out all over again when you move into a different airplane and if you ever decide to become a CFI, have to figure it out all over again from the other seat when everything is reversed.

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