The lift/drag factors may also be varied by the pilot to adjust the descent through the use of landing flaps.
Flap extension during landings provides several advantages by:
Producing greater lift and permitting lower landing speed.
Producing greater drag, permitting a steep descent angle without airspeed increase.
Reducing the length of the landing roll.
Flap extension has a definite effect on the airplane's pitch behavior. The increased camber from flap deflection produces lift primarily on the rear portion of the wing. This produces a nosedown pitching moment; however, the change in tail loads from the downwash deflected by the flaps over the horizontal tail has a significant influence on the pitching moment. Consequently, pitch behavior depends on the design features of the particular airplane.
Flap deflection of up to 15° primarily produces lift with minimal drag. The airplane has a tendency to balloon up with initial flap deflection because of the lift increase. The nosedown pitching moment, however, tends to offset the balloon. Flap deflection beyond 15° produces a large increase in drag. Also, deflection beyond 15° produces a significant noseup pitching moment in high-wing airplanes because the resulting downwash increases the airflow over the horizontal tail.
The time of flap extension and the degree of deflection are related. Large flap deflections at one single point in the landing pattern produce large lift changes that require significant pitch and power changes in order to maintain airspeed and descent angle. Consequently, the deflection of flaps at certain positions in the landing pattern has definite advantages. Incremental deflection of flaps on downwind, base leg, and final approach allow smaller adjustment of pitch and power compared to extension of full flaps all at one time.
When the flaps are lowered, the airspeed will decrease unless the power is increased or the pitch attitude lowered. On final approach, therefore, the pilot must estimate where the airplane will land through discerning judgment of the descent angle. If it appears that the airplane is going to overshoot the desired landing spot, more flaps may be used if not fully extended or the power reduced further, and the pitch attitude lowered. This will result in a steeper approach. If the desired landing spot is being undershot and a shallower approach is needed, both power and pitch attitude should be increased to readjust the descent angle. Never retract the flaps to correct for undershooting since that will suddenly decrease the lift and cause the airplane to sink even more rapidly.
The airplane must be retrimmed on the final approach to compensate for the change in aerodynamic forces. With the reduced power and with a slower airspeed, the airflow produces less lift on the wings and less downward force on the horizontal stabilizer, resulting in a significant nosedown tendency. The elevator must then be trimmed more noseup.
It will be found that the roundout, touchdown, and landing roll are much easier to accomplish when they are preceded by a proper final approach with precise control of airspeed, attitude, power, and drag resulting in a stabilized descent angle.