The Jacobson Flare

The story behind the JF App 

Breaching the Dam’, Nicolas Trudgian – presented with permission from the artist

The Jacobson Flare App can be easily and affordably downloaded – for the cost of just one or two less circuits – onto your iOS or Android device in a few minutes. Like all worthwhile projects, The Jacobson Flare story is a little more involved.

In 2012, David Jacobson collaborated with Jamie Durrant, producer of Essentials Magazine, to revise and redevelop the entire Jacobson Flare visual and written presentation, including this comprehensive website,

A new company, the Jacobson Flare Pty Ltd, was established and work commenced to produce The Jacobson Flare App for iPad – currently available on the App Store, in addition to social media pages FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages.

2014 saw the launch of The Jacobson Flare App for iPad. This exciting new app is the equivalent of a 350-page interactive book, including six videos and five on-board calculators. It was listed immediately by Apple on their ‘Best New Apps’ list.

Met with immediate success, the app is now used by pilots in over 67 countries, to date, winning great respect for its content and Jamie’s fine design, functionality and presentation.

In January 2015, The Jacobson Flare Pty Ltd was short-listed as a finalist for the prestigious Innovation Awards of Aerospace Australia for Avalon 2015.

June 2015 saw the next exciting step forward: a collaboration was announced, linking the Jacobson Flare with WINGMATE, best described as a flight data recorder for light aircraft. It’s the brainchild of Peter Wezenbeek, air race tactician to the increasingly successful Australian Red Bull Air Race pilot, former RAAF FA-18 ‘Top Gun’, Matt Hall. Peter was formerly the Renault F1 Race Team Control Systems Engineer and assisted Fernando Alonzo’s team to two World Championships.

Now, these two powerful tools combine the unique JACOBSON FLARE landing parameters with the leading-edge technology of WINGMATE, to provide incomparable evidence-based feedback on approach and landing accuracy. This will greatly enrich WINGMATE’s Landing Report of recorded flights and endow pilots and operators in any branch of aviation with finite results to review and refine levels of competency – which are now increasingly required by aviation authorities.

In February 2020, The Jacobson Flare App Version 2.0 for iOS – iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch was released, followed in March 2020 by The Jacobson Flare App Version 1.0 for Android devices.

History in the making

The idea behind the JF App 

While the first publication occurred in 1987, the story of The Jacobson Flare goes back much further. Back to early 1965.

David trained at Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia with Civil Flying School and soloed at 17 years of age at the typically average total of about 10 hours. Even then, he was dismayed with the widespread acceptance of trial and error practices that trace back to the classic ‘circuits and bumps’, developed haphazardly through to the end of World War I in 1918 and recycled ever since.

We’ve all been told over the years, by flight instructors and training manuals, WHAT to do to successfully land an airplane; but the HOW has been a bit more elusive. Initially, David was taught to pitch the airplane with the elevators to control airspeed and then use power to control the rate of descent. He says, “It made no sense to me, when on a powered approach, to use the secondary effects of controls to fly the approach. For most pilots, this is the most precise manoeuvre they are ever required to execute; and ‘getting the hang’ of the landing flare from a combination of guesswork, the ‘look’, the ‘feel’, repetition and luck – but with no universal explanation or system to use on subsequent aircraft type conversions – or new locations – made no sense, whatsoever!”

Have you ever watched the movie ‘The Dam Busters’? David recalls first seeing it with his father, upon its Australian release in 1956. ‘The use of simple triangulation applied to the problems of low flying at 60ft over water at night, and the design of a Y-shaped bombsight, captured his imagination as a then nine-year-old’, he says.

In 1965, at 18 years of age, that highly effective use of triangulation became David’s inspiration. He says:

“By then, thankfully, a very senior ex-RAF instructor, Jim Noonan, had taught me how to aim my eyes at an aim point by pitching the airplane with the elevators, and controlling airspeed with power (as taught by the airlines, defence forces and the more enlightened flying schools). Then it clicked; my eye path to the aim point was a position line. A second position line, such as one over the nose of the airplane to a point on the runway centreline, short of the aim point, would surely provide a visual fix for the flare point, rather than relying on an educated guess of flare height. I didn’t have much flight experience back then. Certainly, not enough to dream that my idea might actually work, let alone be universally adaptable to almost any airplane.”

The Dam Busters Y-shaped bomb sighting tool;Breaching the Dam (section), Nicolas Trudgian – showing triangulation of light beams intersecting on the water’s surface

Honing the idea

Throughout a long career in aviation 

David’s career in aviation and training is extensive and packed with highlights.

Here he describes his career and the refinement of The Jacobson Flare:

“My early career followed a typical course through general aviation (GA) as a flight instructor. In 1970 I joined Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA), flying as First Officer on F27, DC-9 and B727 aircraft, before achieving Initial Command on the F27, in 1982. In 1978, however, an event occurred that is worth the telling:

‘The worst landing that I ever completed was the one I never actually made’.

Fortunately, no damage was done – the only thing that really took a hit was my ego. The simple fact is that many years ago, I touched down in a passenger jet before I thought I needed to commence the landing flare manoeuvre.

I was the (reasonably experienced) First Officer (co-pilot) of a B727-100, one of the most forgiving airplanes to land. Yet, in perfect conditions on a cold, calm, moonlight night with unrestricted visibility, no rush and a completely stabilised approach, a visual illusion of our height above the runway caused me to not even commence the flare before the jet planted itself firmly on the runway surface. Firmly enough that it didn’t even skip or bounce.

Like me, both the Captain and Flight Engineer were also lulled into inaction … not even a sharp intake of breath from either, just before we ‘arrived’. There was much embarrassment all round, especially when (after clearing the runway), our Purser enquired, “Which one of you aces is responsible for the 6-rows of rubber jungle back here?”  Of course, she was referring to a collection of dropped oxygen mask panels.

Out of sheer embarrassment, I made sure I didn’t pass through the terminal before all our passengers had claimed their bags and departed; and it cost me a few rounds of drinks in reparation for my colleagues!

The problem becomes apparent

That experience sure made me think about how we continue to land airplanes by guesswork and trial-and-error techniques that hark back 100 years to the end of WW1.

1983 found me instructing again, on weekends, with the RAAF Point Cook Flying Club, Victoria. It was an opportunity to put something back, and to re-discover my love of elementary flying training in a special and historic environment. By 1986 I was a DC9 Training Captain, finding that my landing technique on the DC9-31 was much the same as on a variety of light airplanes at Point Cook, although obviously commencing at different flare heights. One day, while waiting for the rain to lift, a couple of RAAF instructors, a private pilot, student pilot and I were gathered around a white-board with steaming mugs of coffee, discussing landings. The 1965 flare-fix inspiration from ‘The Dam Busters’ was re-kindled that day.

For the next 2 years, I gave myself a harder time than anyone has done since. I couldn’t believe that no one else seemed to have thought of it. Many industry experts were very encouraging, and insisted I should publish my findings. Apart from the ‘The Dam Busters’, I had also been a young fan of the story of the American ‘frontiersman’, Davy Crockett and I recalled the old Disney movie suggesting that Crockett’s motto had been, ‘Be sure you’re right and then go ahead.’ So, I wrote and presented the first paper, ‘Where to Flare?’ for the 1987 Australian Aviation Symposium, Canberra ACT.

Triangles have had three sides for a very long time and we’d only ever used two of them. Moreover, apart from trying to judge the height of an invisible ‘opposite’ side of the triangle which, of course, varies for every type of airplane, every error occurring on this vertical side compounds about 20 times down the runway. Landing accuracy and runway occupancy times suffer as a direct result.

In comparison, the adjacent side (on the runway centreline) is visible, and any errors occurring here are reduced to 1/20th in vertical terms. Flare point predictability, consistency, transportability (to other airplanes) and safety are only some of the benefits. It is tolerant of errors and actually self-compensates for runway slope, path angle and flap settings. Runway width is no longer a consideration, because the flare fix occurs longitudinally and the height illusions may therefore be discounted. It also diminishes ‘lack of recency’ issues. It defines a virtual eye path to touchdown.

The name came about because one cannot patent a training technique, or a formula. (A chef may copyright a cookbook, but he or she cannot patent a cake recipe.) So I called it ‘The Jacobson Flare’, and this name and the JF logo are now registered trademarks.

Over the years the most common statement made to me by other pilots is, ‘It’s quantified what we’ve all probably been trying to do.’ I agree.”

Theory or practice?

"I observed, then I explained" 

Some people believe David developed a mathematically based theory that he’s attempted to prove in practice. Here, he responds to that idea:

“The truth is actually the converse: I observed landings and then I explained. The mathematics 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. The early airline terminal Nose-in Guidance Systems (with a centreline indicator plus a separate stop indicator to the left) use the same kind of triangulation in a different context.

I’ve used it for my own conversions from the DC-9 to the B737-300, -400 and -800 and on sailplanes at Mt Beauty Gliding Club, for all 50 of my DC-9 and B737 trainees’ conversions, and for every landing I’ve made on every type flown since 1985. Is every landing perfect? No, because we’re all human. The technique works consistently well, but if we’re not alert to the guidance cues, then we shouldn’t expect a perfect result, any more than would be the case if we didn’t follow the guidance cues of the Head-up Guidance System fitted to the B737-800. However, landing consistency is greatly improved and troubleshooting is very much simplified. As a matter of interest, the Head-up Guidance Systems (HGS) are totally compatible with ‘The Jacobson Flare’. The overlaid graphics, applied to hold the correct aim point 1, together with the real-world view of the flare cut-off point and then through the 4-second flare to aim point 2, is an unbeatable combination.

For too long, the landing has been regarded as a grand ‘art’. I prefer to think of it as a skill, based on facts, ‘not smoke and mirrors’ or ‘mumbo jumbo’. Ask your friends (or any pilot) how they land. I suggest that you will get responses like the following clichés: ‘Darned if I know,’ or ‘I just close my eyes and hope for the best’ or ‘You just get the hang of it.’ It is attitudes like these that may eventually see insurance companies insisting that the manual landing manoeuvre be taken away from professional pilots as a normal procedure, because the results are too inconsistent.” That would be a truly sad day.

Industry acceptance

Many 1000's of pilots: 65 nations  

Industry acceptance of The Jacobson Flare has been steady.

Since 1985, many pilots, at all levels of experience have learned or finessed their landings using ‘The Jacobson Flare’ and they can easily apply the same principles to their ‘big’ airplane, when that time comes.

The Aviation Safety Foundation Australia awarded a Certificate of Air Safety in 1998 and it has been featured in an increasing number of magazines including Flight International, Australian Flying, Flight Safety Australia and The Longreach Flyer. A number of flying schools now use it as one of their most effective training tools.

A long-overdue website was commissioned in 2008 and the Jacobson Flare received a great honour at that time: David says he was both humbled and proud when the then Chief Pilot and his deputy approved a link from the Qantas Flight Operations website to, for reference by the company’s pilots. This represented a major step forward in terms of the acceptance of ‘The Jacobson Flare’ by the Company as a valid and valuable training tool. David says, “I shall always thank these gentlemen sincerely for their support, given that the Jacobson Flare was not then and is still not yet Qantas policy. I have also appreciated the honest and supportive attitudes of my fellow pilots at Australian Airlines and Qantas Airways.”

The website is now the gateway to a key resource, for pilots at all levels. David is always available to clarify any point of discussion and welcomes all feedback. There is no such thing as a silly question.

Do you want to experience, more often, that great feeling of fulfilment derived from executing consistently beautiful landings?

Read what pilots of all levels of experience have to say about the Jacobson Flare technique and the App, on our Testimonials page.

** NEW ** The Jacobson Flare App – Available now for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!!

Download The Jacobson Flare for iOS devices now.

** NEW ** The Jacobson Flare App – Available for Android!

Download The Jacobson Flare for Android now.