The roundout is a slow, smooth transition from a normal approach attitude to a landing attitude, gradually rounding out the flightpath to one that is parallel with, and within a very few inches above, the runway. When the airplane, in a normal descent, approaches within what appears to be 10 to 20 feet above the ground, the roundout or flare should be started, and once started should be a continuous process until the airplane touches down on the ground.
As the airplane reaches a height above the ground where a timely change can be made into the proper landing attitude, back-elevator pressure should be gradually applied to slowly increase the pitch attitude and angle of attack.
This will cause the airplane's nose to gradually rise toward the desired landing attitude. The angle of attack should be increased at a rate that will allow the airplane to continue settling slowly as forward speed decreases.
When the angle of attack is increased, the lift is momentarily increased, which decreases the rate of descent. Since power normally is reduced to idle during the roundout, the airspeed will also gradually decrease. This will cause lift to decrease again, and it must be controlled by raising the nose and further increasing the angle of attack. During the roundout, the airspeed is being decreased to touchdown speed while the lift is being controlled so the airplane will settle gently onto the landing surface. The roundout should be executed at a rate that the proper landing attitude and the proper touchdown airspeed are attained simultaneously just as the wheels contact the landing surface.
The rate at which the roundout is executed depends on the airplane's height above the ground, the rate of descent, and the pitch attitude. A roundout started excessively high must be executed more slowly than one from a lower height to allow the airplane to descend to the ground while the proper landing attitude is being established. The rate of rounding out must also
be proportionate to the rate of closure with the ground. When the airplane appears to be descending very slowly, the increase in pitch attitude must be made at a correspondingly slow rate.
Visual cues are important in flaring at the proper altitude and maintaining the wheels a few inches above the runway until eventual touchdown. Flare cues are primarily dependent on the angle at which the pilot's central vision intersects the ground (or runway) ahead and slightly to the side. Proper depth perception is a factor in a successful flare, but the visual cues used most are those related to changes in runway or terrain perspective and to changes in the size of familiar objects near the landing area such as fences, bushes, trees, hangars, and even sod or runway texture. The pilot should direct central vision at a shallow downward angle of from 10° to 15° toward the runway as the roundout/flare is initiated.
Maintaining the same viewing angle causes the point of visual interception with the runway to move progressively rearward toward the pilot as the airplane loses altitude. This is an important visual cue in assessing the rate of altitude loss. Conversely, forward movement of the visual interception point will indicate an increase in altitude, and would mean that the pitch angle was increased too rapidly, resulting in an over flare. Location of the visual interception point in conjunction with assessment of flow velocity of nearby off-runway terrain, as well as the similarity of appearance of height above the runway ahead of the airplane (in comparison to the way it looked when the airplane was taxied prior to takeoff) is also used to judge when the wheels are just a few inches above the runway.
The pitch attitude of the airplane in a full-flap approach is considerably lower than in a no-flap approach. To attain the proper landing attitude before touching down, the nose must travel through a greater pitch change when flaps are fully extended. Since the round-out is usually started at approximately the same height above the ground regardless of the degree of flaps used, the pitch attitude must be increased at a faster rate when full flaps are used; however, the roundout should still be executed at a rate proportionate to the airplane's downward motion.
Once the actual process of rounding out is started, the elevator control should not be pushed forward. If too much back-elevator pressure has been exerted, this pressure should be either slightly relaxed or held constant, depending on the degree of the error. In some cases, it may be necessary to advance the throttle slightly to prevent an excessive rate of sink, or a stall, all of which would result in a hard, drop-in type landing.
It is recommended that the student pilot form the habit of keeping one hand on the throttle throughout the approach and landing, should a sudden and unexpected hazardous situation require an immediate application of power.