How to land a plane.. Our favourite FAQs #4 Let’s settle some misconceptions, right now.

How to land a plane.. Our favourite FAQs #4 Let’s settle some misconceptions, right now.

Let’s settle some misconceptions

Some unenlightened people believe David developed a mathematically based theory that he’s attempted to prove in practice. They could not be more mistaken! Here, he responds to that idea:

The truth is actually the converse: For 20 years, I observed and studied landings. Then I explained those observations, using unassailable, yet simple mathematical principles. The maths are necessary to validate the technique, and to produce a couple of simple formulas to make ‘The Jacobson Flare’ predictable and useable on our ‘next’ airplane. I haven’t invented anything; I’ve just made a couple of connections.”


No parlour trick

“The Jacobson Flare is not a parlour trick. It doesn’t involve a deck of cards or a pact with the devil. 

It’s my considered opinion that pilots who learn to apply Jacobson’s techniques can make consistently good landings, provided they know how to configure their aircraft and fly a stable approach at the appropriate airspeed.’ 

‘I’m excited to have a cool, new tool in my teaching toolbox. I can’t shake this feeling of a kid in a candy store.” 

– John Ewing, Flight Instructor, California, USA

“If this was any good, it would have been developed by someone, years ago!” is a lame and unenlightened alternate response. “But we’ve always done it THIS way”, is another. If similar attitudes had prevailed through the rest of aviation, we would not have progressed beyond spruce, wire and fabric structures, unreliable power plants and navigating by DR; we would not have weather radar, GPS, GPWS or TCAS.

The truth is it was developed over 30 years ago by Captain David Jacobson, a career flight instructor and airline pilot. Since the original Jacobson Flare Paper, ‘Where to Flare‘ was published in 1987, the multifarious responses by pilots have been insightful, to say the least.

Many pilots have been open-minded, self-aware and honest enough to realise that conventional landing training methods have been inadequate, at the very least. The most common and insightful observation, by a great many pilots celebrating that ‘Eureka’ moment when they execute another consistently sound landing by applying the Jacobson Flare, is: “This probably what we’ve all been trying to achieve, without realising!”

These more enlightened pilots understand that the best that generations of flight instructors and flight training organisations have been able to manage is to attempt to describe what they, themselves, do and this loose collection of opinions has been passed down, as fact. This explains why every flight instructor has a different explanation, none of which really explain ‘how‘ to land an airplane. Trial and error is not good enough, when the rest of aviation has grown from the days of World War One.

At best, all conventional landing methods have revolved around opinions, myths and legends that have well and truly passed their use-by dates. They lean heavily on judgment, perception, false information, experience, repetition and an educated guess of vertical height above the landing surface – none of which can be taught. They are inconsistent and unreliable. Competence comes at some indeterminate time, for each individual pilot and is fallible in differing circumstances. From the dawn of aviation until 1987 there was no definitive, universal landing technique and, even more puzzling, little recognition of the need for one.

“We’ve always done it this way!”

The Law of  Primacy in the discipline of education, refers to the way that many people tend to believe implicitly what they are first taught, creating unshakeable views about any given subject. This very much includes any attempt to discuss a different viewpoint on landing training, which the majority of pilots regard as an ‘art‘.

It has been noted by the author, often during the past 35 years, that when a pilot is presented with an alternative to conventional ideas on landing training, defence mechanisms kick in and any new idea can be regarded as a personal challenge to their ego. Instead of listening, or reading, or watching and then considering, many pilots tend to become quite defensive, immediately throwing up as many reasons as they can think of, as to why the Jacobson Flare “cannot work“. They will argue – from a position of total ignorance in relation to the principles and advantages of the Jacobson Flare – about the wide number of variables that certainly do affect the outcome of all landings (all of which and more are, in fact, embraced and diminished by the sound principles behind this innovative technique. They are not to know yet that is does work and has always worked, ever since the sound mathematical principles used to explain David’s 1965 inspiration were applied.

So, what’s so different about the Jacobson Flare?

Essentially, the Jacobson Flare uses a logical, geometric visual ‘framework’ to guide the pilot through the entire manoeuvre. Since the development of The Jacobson Flare from 1985, pilots are presented with a fully-defined visual eye path, specified by the airplane type – making the landing safe, sure, simple and universal.

Accounting for all – even self-compensating for many – of the variable parameters that distract the attention of pilots away from the 5 essential elements of all landings:Where to aim; How to aim; When to flare; How much to flare; and How fast to flare, the Jacobson Flare explains landings as never before.

Simply put: Consistently sound landings – in the right place – are obtained through ‘flying’ a constant-angle final approach to a suitable initial aim point, commencing the flare at an equally-suitable pre-determined visual fix and then executing a 4-second flare through to a new, secondary aim point. That’s it. The framework confirms to the pilot exactly what is happening, at every stage dispelling the myths that ‘trial and error‘, ‘developing a mental picture‘ and ‘feel‘ are the only ways to master the landing.

Flown initially at a constant angle, the eye path translates to the classic exponential flare curve that generations of pilots have attempted to execute by judgment alone. The flare is initiated from a visual fix, derived from the cockpit lower visual cut-off angle and the flight path angle, offering a precise and visible model for both student and instructor.

The airplane type/size determines the exact positions of aim points 1 and 2 and the flare initiation point and, on a normal powered approach, is flown using a PATH descent – using the elevators to aim the pilots eye and power/thrust to control airspeed. The technique is equally applicable and adaptable to both light and heavy airplanes, from sailplanes to A380s.

(For those pilots taught that airspeed is controlled with the elevators and rate of descent is controlled with the throttle, the use of elevators to control airspeed, on final approach is more correctly applied to the Non-Normal cases when power/thrust is fixed – or failed – such as in a forced landing. For further explanation, please see FAQ #5, in the FAQs tab.)

The flare fix determines a longitudinal flare point on the runway centreline (based on the correct conventional flare height) while gradually reducing power/thrust back to idle). The concept of using a longitudinal flare point rather than flare height has two great advantages:

  1.  The flare point is visible and therefore easily identified and able to be repeated, consistently; and
  2.  Any longitudinal error made in mis-identifying the longitudinal flare point DIMINISHES 20 times, compared with the fact that any error in mis-identifying a conventional vertical flare ‘height’ COMPOUNDS 20 times. This is due to the fact that the standard approach path angle is – approximately a 1:20 gradient. Overlooked by the entire flight training industry for 100 years, this angle is routinely misrepresented in text books and manuals as approximately 25-30º and this has masked its significance.  Triangles have 3 sides and only 2 were ever utilised. The third (adjacent) side is fully visible as the runway centreline and, on sealed and painted runways, is effectively a calibrated ruler.  The 1:20 tolerance, afforded by utilising a longitudinal flare point, has the great advantage of being so tolerant of error that the technique can be equally applied on unsealed airstrips of grass or gravel, where an estimation of runway segment distance is required.

The Jacobson Flare is comprehensive yet practical, simple to master and extremely effective. Since 1985, it has been adopted in 65 nations by thousands of civil and military pilots of various ages, abilities and experience, in airplane types ranging from sailplanes and single-engine light airplanes to large jet transports. The improvement in confidence, competence and progress of pilots – at all levels – is not only breathtaking: It’s measurable.

The Jacobson Flare addresses obvious differences between airplanes but embraces their similarities. It delivers a basic system of flight training that may be adapted as necessary to meet specific requirements. Its universal application is long overdue and the App presents the Jacobson Flare clearly and comprehensively as never before.


Wishing you many safe landings


Captain David M Jacobson FRAeS MAP


Would you care to experience that unsurpassed sense of accomplishment, derived from executing consistently beautiful landings, more often?

For starters, Download the FREE Jacobson Flare LITE, our no fuss/no frills introduction. Here we demonstrate, step by step, the application of the Jacobson Flare on a typical grass airstrip at Porepunkah, YPOK.


We invite you to browse the consistently positive comments on our Testimonials page. Many pilots, of all levels of experience, have downloaded our Apps. Read about their own experiences with the Jacobson Flare technique and the App.

Then download the COMPLETE Jacobson Flare app – for iOS. You’re already possibly paying $300+/hour to hire an aeroplane: You’ll recover the cost of the app, in just ONE LESS-NEEDED CIRCUIT. Moreover, you’ll have an invaluable reference tool, throughout your entire life in aviation.

Download the COMPLETE Jacobson Flare App for iOS devices now.


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David Jacobson