The landing process must never be considered complete until the airplane decelerates to the normal taxi speed during the landing roll or has been brought to a complete stop when clear of the landing area. Many accidents have occurred as a result of pilots abandoning their vigilance and positive control after getting the airplane on the ground.
The pilot must be alert for directional control difficulties immediately upon and after touchdown due to the ground friction on the wheels. The friction creates a pivot point on which a moment arm can act. Loss of directional control may lead to an aggravated, uncontrolled, tight turn on the ground, or a ground loop. The combination of centrifugal force acting on the center of gravity (CG) and ground friction of the main wheels resisting it during the ground loop may cause the airplane to tip or lean enough for the outside wingtip to contact the ground. This may even impose a sideward force, which could collapse the landing gear.
The rudder serves the same purpose on the ground as it does in the air—it controls the yawing of the airplane. The effectiveness of the rudder is dependent on the airflow, which depends on the speed of the airplane. As the speed decreases and the nosewheel has been lowered to the ground, the steerable nose provides more positive directional control.
The brakes of an airplane serve the same primary purpose as the brakes of an automobile—to reduce speed on the ground. In airplanes, they may also be used as an aid in directional control when more positive control is required than could be obtained with rudder or nosewheel steering alone.
To use brakes, on an airplane equipped with toe brakes, the pilot should slide the toes or feet up from the rudder pedals to the brake pedals. If rudder pressure is being held at the time braking action is needed, that pressure should not be released as the feet or toes are being slid up to the brake pedals, because control may be lost before brakes can be applied.
Putting maximum weight on the wheels after touchdown is an important factor in obtaining optimum braking performance. During the early part of rollout, some lift may continue to be generated by the wing. After touchdown, the nosewheel should be lowered to the runway to maintain directional control. During deceleration, the nose may be pitched down by braking and the weight transferred to the nosewheel from the main wheels. This does not aid in braking action, so back pressure should be applied to the controls without lifting the nosewheel off the runway. This will enable the pilot to maintain directional control while keeping weight on the main wheels.
Careful application of the brakes can be initiated after the nosewheel is on the ground and directional control is established. Maximum brake effectiveness is just short of the point where skidding occurs. If the brakes are applied so hard that skidding takes place, braking becomes ineffective. Skidding can be stopped by releasing the brake pressure. Also, braking effectiveness is not enhanced by alternately applying and reapplying brake pressure. The brakes should be applied firmly and smoothly as necessary.
During the ground roll, the airplane's direction of movement can be changed by carefully applying pressure on one brake or uneven pressures on each brake in the desired direction. Caution must be exercised when applying brakes to avoid overcontrolling.
The ailerons serve the same purpose on the ground as they do in the air—they change the lift and drag components of the wings. During the after-landing roll, they should be used to keep the wings level in much the same way they were used in flight. If a wing starts to rise, aileron control should be applied toward that wing to lower it. The amount required will depend on speed because as the forward speed of the airplane decreases, the ailerons will become less effective. Procedures for using ailerons in crosswind conditions are explained further in this chapter, in the Crosswind Approach and Landing section.
After the airplane is on the ground, back-elevator pressure may be gradually relaxed to place normal weight on the nosewheel to aid in better steering. If available runway permits, the speed of the airplane should be allowed to dissipate in a normal manner. Once the airplane has slowed sufficiently and has turned on to the taxiway and stopped, the pilot should retract the flaps and clean up the airplane. Many accidents have occurred as a result of the pilot unintentionally operating the landing gear control and retracting the gear instead of the flap control when the airplane was still rolling. The habit of positively identifying both of these controls, before actuating them, should be formed from the very beginning of flight training and continued in all future flying activities.