Let’s settle some misconceptions – It’s not a parlour trick

Let’s settle some misconceptions – It’s not a parlour trick

Let’s settle some misconceptions – It’s not a 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.

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 – to this day.

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 it does work and has always worked, ever since the sound mathematical principles used to explain David’s 1965 inspiration were applied. Typical comments/questions include:

‘The glareshield must be at the right height’;

JF: There ARE differences between aircraft, but there is a correct seat position to achieve the design eye point.

‘The pilot must be sitting at the right height’;

JF: The pilot should always be sitting at the right height, for adequate control and for ground and flight visibility.

The approach path angle is not consistent’;

JF: Pilots can be taught HOW to fly a consistent path angle, without electronic glideslope guidance.

‘Our runways have no approach path angle guidance systems’ (ILS, PAPI, etc);

JF: The Jacobson Flare actually self-compensates for higher or lower flight path angles, scheduling an earlier/later flare, respectively.

‘What about up- or down-sloping runways?’

JF: The Jacobson Flare actually self-compensates for these runways, scheduling an earlier/later flare, respectively.

‘What about a different flap setting?’

JF: The Jacobson Flare actually self-compensates for different flap angles, scheduling a flare at a similar main-wheel height, but higher pilot eye heights, for lesser flap settings than normal. (The aim point will be lower in the windscreen, due to the slightly higher body angle of the airplane.)

‘What about strong headwind components? Or crosswinds? Or other ambient environmental issues?

JF: These, too, are compensated for, by flying the prescribed pilot eye path. 

‘Every airplane type has a different flare height … and that height is critical’.

JF: Agreed and it is critical. BUT: using flare heightper se, is flawed, because any vertical error compounds 20 x times, one way or the other, along the runway.

“This method is inflexible.”

JF: This technique is more flexible than any other, making it quantifiable and universal in its application.

The ‘instant critics’  cannot yet appreciate that the development of the Jacobson Flare accounts for all of these variables – and many more – by using the flight controls, correctly, to maintain a pre-defined, tolerant and totally visible pilot eye path, from the intercepting of final approach right through to a perfect touchdown – in the right place. They rely instead on browsing for landing videos on channels such as YouTube, essentially shopping for one that conforms with their limited view, just like a person who ‘shops for a physician who will agree with their own uninformed diagnosis.

So, what’s 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 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 three great advantages:

The flare point is visible and therefore easily identified and able to be repeated, consistently;

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 3º – 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; and

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.

Summary  – The Jacobson Flare Advantage

Overall, the Jacobson Flare offers the following advantages over conventional practices:

Landing an airplane can now be regarded as a skill that can be logically taught and learned, rather than as an art to be mastered eventually. This innovative technique defines the entire landing flare manoeuvre for any airplane from day one, greatly enhancing self-confidence for all pilots;

Most of the variable factors affecting perception and estimation of flare height may be discounted because pilots can fly a clearly delineated eye path, from final approach through to a predictable touchdown. The distinctions between aircraft types are reduced to just the aim point and flare cut-off point positions;

The concept of a longitudinal flare cut-off point on the runway is extremely tolerant as any errors in the selection or identification of this position are greatly diminished, vertically;

The Jacobson Flare offers standardisation throughout an organisation and facilitates accurate assessment of increasingly vital evidence-based competency standards;

Elementary and advanced pilot training is simplified for student and instructor, representing a meaningful reduction in total training time and costs; this pilot-portable technique adapts simply to successive airplane endorsements throughout a pilot’s career;

Experienced pilots, especially when returning from a period of leave or non-flying management duties, can achieve better landing consistency by using the visual flare fix to complement their highly developed levels of judgement, coordination and skill;

Runway occupancy times are minimised, optimising traffic flow. More consistent touchdown points lead to reduced airplane tyre, brake and undercarriage wear and tear, which may then reduce runway wear and tear;

No device or modification of the airplane is required – therefore no additional costs are incurred;

The approach path, flare fix and flare rate are very similar to, and compatible with, those commanded by Head-up Guidance Systems (HGS) on the B737NG and other airplanes;

The likelihood of landing accidents causing aircraft damage, loss and ensuing insurance claims is greatly diminished;

Safety is greatly enhanced, because pilots no longer need to rely solely on guesswork and ‘feel’, perception, judgment and experience; the entire approach and landing manoeuvre is virtually visible to the pilot; The Jacobson Flare is universal, quantifiable, consistent and unassailable.

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