Non-pilots sometimes see aircraft come in for a landing, briefly touch down to the runway, and then just as quickly accelerate and take back off. These non-aviators are often confused by the maneuver and wonder what the pilot was doing. Fellow pilots will recognize that the aircraft was executing a touch and go landing.
What is a touch and go landing?
A touch and go landing is a maneuver performed in fixed wing aircraft. During a touch and go landing, the pilot makes an approach to landing, configures the plane to land, and briefly touches down on the runway. Rather than coming to a stop and taxiing off the runway as you would with a normal landing, once the wheels touch down, the pilot continues down the runway, reconfigures the plane for takeoff and executes an immediate takeoff without ever coming to a stop.
Pilots will often practice a series of touch and go landings. During these maneuvers, they will take off, enter the pattern, do a touch and go landing, then re-enter the pattern, do another touch and go landing, and repeat this sequence.
Why are touch and go landings used?
Touch and go landings have several purposes both for student pilots and seasoned pilots. Regardless of your current experience level, touch and goes will serve to build piloting skills and expertise.
During the later stages of initial flight training, touch and goes are used to maximize training and flight time. Rather than making a full stop landing and taxiing back just to wait to take off again, a touch and go landing lets the student spend as much of their flight time in the air as possible while still practicing their landing skills.
As you prepare for your check ride, your CFI will spend time having you practice the landing approaches that you will be tested on – normal, soft field, short field and forward slip. Using touch and go landings lets you train back to back on all these approaches with minimal downtime in between.
Touch and go landings also prepare the student to be able to execute a go around if needed. If a student has only practiced configuring the plane for takeoff from a full stop, that student pilot will be unprepared to safely reconfigure the aircraft for a go around. During a touch and go landing, the student will practice reconfiguring the plane for takeoff while rolling down the runway. This helps prepare the student pilot for reconfiguring the aircraft in the air during an aborted landing.
From an experience standpoint, more time flying in the traffic pattern also exposes new pilots to a greater variety of traffic scenarios, clearances and ATC instructions.
It is worth noting that you shouldn’t expect to be doing touch and goes right away. A good instructor will have you “crawl, walk, run” as you learn to fly the aircraft. Before you graduate to touch and goes, you will have demonstrated your competency for executing solid takeoffs and landings as individual piloting components. Putting them together is a more advanced skill that you will work up to.
Once you pass your checkride and become a licensed pilot, it makes sense to continue using touch and goes to brush up and stay proficient on the skills needed for approaches to landing, landings, takeoffs, and go arounds. Just remember to keep practicing full stop landings and regular takeoffs too.
How to do a touch and go landing
The set up for a touch and go landing is the same as it is for any other landing, although the radio traffic will differ slightly as you let ATC know you will be doing a touch and go and request the appropriate clearances. You will enter the pattern, configure your aircraft for landing, and make your approach. Here’s the difference – as soon as your wheels touch down, you will immediately reconfigure the aircraft for takeoff and begin takeoff procedures. You will increase to Vr and takeoff again, then loop around to reenter the pattern and make another approach to landing.
If you are new to touch and go landings, you will naturally want to know what to expect including the sequence of maneuvers and the accompanying radio traffic. One of the best ways to ease those pre-flight jitters is to watch a real-life preview of the touch and go sequence before ever stepping into the cockpit. John at FLY8MA.com takes you through the basics of practicing touch and go landings. Follow along as you watch and listen to him execute several back-to-back touch and go landings. This will help to prepare you for what to expect on your first touch and go adventure.
The do’s and don’ts of touch and go landings
Now that we understand a little more about the importance and benefits of touch and go landings and we have brushed up on their uses, let’s wrap up with a reminder of the do’s and don’ts surrounding this maneuver.
- Do use touch and goes to maximize your repetition when practicing landings. You will log more approaches to landing per hour of flight time if you use touch and goes rather than full stop landings.
- Do announce your intentions to perform a touch and go landing. At a controlled airfield, make sure you receive both your landing and takeoff clearance. If you receive landing clearance only, when you takeoff again, you will be in violation.
- Do practice touch and go landings at an appropriate airfield. Confirm that touch and goes are allowed and that the runway is plenty long (generally over 5,000 feet for small GA aircraft) to allow you ample room to land and takeoff.
- Do be aware of the potential risks associated with touch and go landings. In addition to the chance of running out of runway, you must also be aware of the dangers of pilot distraction while reconfiguring the aircraft for takeoff. Failure to retract flaps for takeoff is another area of concern as this will dangerously increase drag.
- Do practice plenty of touch and goes with a CFI prior to attempting them solo. If you already have your pilot’s license and you haven’t done touch and goes or it’s been a long time, ask a CFI to join you the first few times as a safety measure.
- Don’t use a touch and go landing for practicing short and soft field takeoffs. You can do short and soft field approaches to landings using touch and goes, but for short and soft field takeoff practice, you will need to taxi back each time.
- Don’t do touch and goes on too short a runway. Safety comes first, and you must always ensure that your runway is long enough to give you a safe margin for takeoff.
- Don’t fly touch and goes in anything more than light wind conditions if you are a student pilot flying solo.
- Don’t practice solely touch and go landings. You will need a well-rounded skillset that includes full stop landing competency as well. Schedule regular takeoffs and landings into your practice as well.
- Don’t tie up space in the traffic pattern by repeatedly practicing touch and goes when the traffic is heavy. Be courteous of other pilots and the tower.
Touch and go landings are a piloting maneuver that allows pilots to practice repeated approaches to landing, landings, and takeoffs in a short period of time. Remember to follow the “dos and don’ts” and to be safe and courteous while executing touch and go maneuvers. Used strategically and intelligently, touch and go landings can be a useful part of initial and continuing training for fixed wing aircraft pilots.
Want to learn more? Read the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook FAA-H-8083-3B.