Ask the pilot: Why do planes land on the right wheel first?
Who better to answer such questions than the pilots themselves.
”If it’s blowing from the right, we usually fly with the right wing slightly lower than the left. We call it putting the wing into the wind.”
Hi, My son is very interested in flying and watches many films about airplanes. He has a couple of questions about wheels. Why do planes land on the right wheel first? And at what altitude are the wheels released before landing? /Lena
There’s no strict rule that dictates which wheel should touch the ground first, other than that the main wheels should touch down first in order to absorb most of the energy. Sometimes though, we do set one side down first. It often depends on the wind. If it’s blowing from the right, we usually fly with the right wing slightly lower than the left. We call it putting the wing into the wind, which is a way of counteracting the forces of increased lift on the wind-affected side. Lowering one wing will result in one main-gear touching the runway slightly ahead of the other. One can also lower one wing just before normal landing in order to get the aircraft on the ground quicker. This way we can apply the air brakes faster and stop over a shorter distance. But like I said, it really all comes down to different flying techniques.
During approach, the wheels usually come out fairly late, only a few minutes before landing. They cause a lot of drag and noise, so we try to keep them up for as long as possible. This makes for a smoother, quieter and more environmentfriendly flight. I can’t give you an exact altitude for when we extend them, because it really depends on what speed and sink rate we need. But I would say that on a normal approach, we set the wheels down at around 2,000ft, or 600m.
Rasmus Ilsø Olsen
Rasmus Ilsø Olsen
Title: Chief Pilot
Years at SAS: 23
Home base: Copenhagen
Flies: Airbus A320
Flight hours: 11,000
Favorite airport: Copenhagen