Cessna landing
1 min read
Cessna landing

Full flaps or partial?

Since the 1950s, most airplanes have been designed with wing flaps, allowing for steeper approaches, better sight pictures and lower airspeeds at touch down. But how to use those flaps has been an endless source of debate. Should you land with full flaps every time, or are partial flap landings easier and safer in windy conditions?

Some pilots believe full flaps should be used on every single landing, with only rare exceptions for serious emergencies. Their argument is that airplanes should land at the slowest possible speed, and flaps help pilots do this safely. Full flap landings get weight on the wheels quickly and reduce the length of the landing roll. Besides, most Pilot’s Operating Handbooks point out that “normal landings” are with full flaps.

Others disagree with this one-size-fits-all philosophy. These pilots point out that partial flap settings can make it much easier to control the airplane, especially in strong or gusty winds. In some cases, a little extra speed is beneficial, and most Cessnas don’t need 6000 ft. of runway to get stopped anyway. Finally, it’s much easier to start a go-around with partial flaps than with full flaps, especially in older Cessnas with 40 degrees of flaps.

What do you think? Full flaps or partial flaps? Does it depend on the airplane? Add a comment below.

Air Facts Staff
103 replies
  1. David Dickins
    David Dickins says:

    I am now a 172S driver/pilot with around 250 hours total, much of it on light sport. Over the past year, I have experimented with a range of flap settings under different conditions and decided that while it is essential to be feel comfortable with full flap landings, they are not the best for everyday approaches. We have a lot of gusty winds mid day in southern California when I fly. I find that 20 degrees of flap gives me more control, especially in terms of increased rudder authority when needed in crosswinds. Most of the runways around here are well over 4,000 feet so there is really no sense to use full flaps all the time. I still make my approach with 20 degree flaps at about the same speed as full flaps, adding 3-4 kt for gusty conditions, but generally shooting for 65 over the numbers.

  2. William "Pete" Hodges
    William "Pete" Hodges says:

    I use 2 notches of flaps on final approach and pull in full flaps at tree height after I have made the field. I do this because the Cherokee I fly is rated to climb at 2/3 flaps but not with full flaps. If I have to go around the prcedure is much easier to execute if the flaps are already set to climb and the carb heat is already off, which I turn off after turning final. Sometimes I land with full flaps and sometimes not. It depends.

    • Duane
      Duane says:

      Pete – of course one of the beauties of the Cherokee design is that you can instantly dump one notch of flaps on go-around, unlike the Cessna pilots who have to wait what seems an eternity for the electric flaps to do their work!

      Of course, the down side to the instant flap dump of the Cherokee is that an inattentive pilot can also dump all of his/her flaps instantly too.

      • Karl
        Karl says:

        And find yourself falling like a rock with a bunch of lift gone !! With the electric flaps, you’re putting power in as a gradual change occurs.

  3. Theresa Van Enter
    Theresa Van Enter says:

    I believe flaps should be used like carb heat, adapt for the conditions. Especially in aircraft like Cessna with such large flaps. You can learn to land with full flap. I believe, however, you should be able to change the settings if required. Like anything in flying, we are given a start point but we have to get away from robot mentality most of us are not flying an airliner. If we change our airspeed for wind then it makes sense to change the flap settings. I have instructed in several places and noted the airline and military approach are the ones who use only 1 setting.

  4. keith
    keith says:

    I say depending on the condition. Where I fly out of it’s common to end up really having 2/3 of the 2890′ runway because a 757 was cleared for takeoff as I cross short final. To avoid jet blast, I have to cross at 30′ AGL, now I need to get down fast so there’s no lift on the wings before I get to where that plane lifted off at. If the winds are strong enough, I use partial flaps because full flaps just causes too much lift that I’m floating when I want to get down. My CFI always told me to do what I need to do to get the result I want from my plane, even if it means not following conventional thinking.

  5. Chris Tarbell
    Chris Tarbell says:

    I learned to fly out of a 2800′ strip with 100’+ pines on each end. I flew every approach with full flaps and still do even though I’m operating out of a 3000’+ strip that’s wide open on both ends. I think it’s good to learn how to use full flaps, and to be comfortable with it as sometimes the strips won’t be as great as the ones you learned on. I was lucky and had to learn how to land accurately and short right from the get go. That being said, full flaps can get you into trouble. That’s why Cessna limited the flap travel on the 152 and the late 172. (bummer…) It really comes down to knowing your skill level, understanding the situation, and knowing your airplane like that back of your own hand.

  6. Duane
    Duane says:

    Not sure why this is an argument, and I don’t know anyone so hardheaded as to demand that all landings be performed exactly the same configuration no matter the flight conditions. That’s just dumb.

    As a general rule, of course, the slower the landing speed, especially the touchdown speed, the better. Less wear and tear on the tires and gear, shorter rollout distance, and less opportunity for gusty or swirly winds to mess with your rollout, or lift an upwind wing, etc.

    But as anyone with any significant flying experience knows, strong and/or gusty crosswinds demand responsive flight controls which in turn demands a higher landing speed. So partial flaps make perfect sense in such conditions.

    Also, it is always good practice to stay current in making partial or even no-flap landings – not only to handle gusty crosswinds, but also should you be forced to make a no-flaps landing in the case of airframe icing. Or you may find yourself on short final at a Class C airport with a heavy jet bearing down behind you, and tower asks you to expedite your landing (been there, done that). The landing approach is very different without flaps – not only are the airspeeds significantly higher, but the deck angle and visual references are very different. I hadn’t done a no-flaps landing in I-don’t-know-how-long, but my flight instructor had me do one for my last BFI.

  7. dean licheri
    dean licheri says:

    My jabiru SK normally lands on the spot and I am at taxi speed around 120-150 feet after that.

    My approach is always with 20 degrees and then full flaps on late final unless it is gusty or there is 12+ kts of cross wind. i find it works for me and leaves me with ample rudder authority to correct pretty much most situations that have arisen in my 250 hours of flying.

    Best to be in control and a key factor in maintaining control is keeping the speed down …

  8. Dan Milligan
    Dan Milligan says:

    Among other aircraft, I fly a C-188 which is of course a tailwheel plane. Being a cropduster pilot, I conduct many, many landings, and nearly always use a wheel landing, where I choose the moment to pop the wheels onto the ground. Especially in heavy crosswinds, having little or no flap gives the wind less authority over the plane, which means I have more. I can smoothly press the bird down and cut power, get her straight, and pin the tail down at nearly any landing speed. Different flap configurations are what allow this.

  9. DJ Whitehaf
    DJ Whitehaf says:

    I teach my students to land with all flap settings. I also teach on floats as well as wheels. Full flaps allow for safe approach at lower speed, good for short fields and rough surfaces. Partial flap gives more of a float on landing, allowing time to think and feel the aircraft. No flappers are important too, I’ve had a flap failure before. Knowing how to use the tools available safely and properly will make you a better pilot.

  10. Peter Lovett
    Peter Lovett says:

    With the aircraft that I currently fly (a Cessna 404) I use full flaps otherwise it is very difficult to get the airspeed back to Vref without getting into a situation where the props are driving the engine which is not good for a geared engine. However, a few years ago I was flying for a tourist scenic flight operation in outback Australia where we could get some howling crosswinds on the single runway where we operated from. This was flying Cessna 172 – 182RG – 207 and 210 aircraft. In the crosswind situation I found that using 1/2 flaps was much preferable to full flaps, especially for the 172 which had the 40 degree flap.

  11. Paulo Kattah
    Paulo Kattah says:

    It depends on the plane you’re flying, the landing field you’re using, its length, floor type, obstacles you have, wind, the capability of your plane to go around with or without flaps. Usually airline and military planes have to optimize their runway because they require so much runway to land and they have a powerful engine capable to compensate the drag created by flaps in case of going around before or touching the runway, we have to remember that they use usually better runways than general aviation aircraft, and they have less risk of an animal, person or vehicle to cross the runway area, when you are in unprotected places you do prefer to land with lower speed, and require less runway. Flaps raise your lift, but raise your drag as well, in a strong wind condition they, big planes, are less affected than your Cessna 150. Normally I like to use for a Cessna 150 , 20 degrees of flaps with 60 to 65 Knots on final, and increase it to 65 to 70 with stronger winds, except in short field landings when normally I bring the plane to 55 Knots with 40 degrees of flaps, but go around with maximum gross weight becomes very restrictive. With turboprop or jet always Full Flap.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      I land the Pilatus PC-12 with only 15 degree flaps regularly. It doesn’t add too much to the landing roll and it’s easier to land in some ways.

    • Ian D. Samson
      Ian D. Samson says:

      I seldom landed with full flaps, in either high wing Cessnas or low wing Pipers, Mooneys, and so on. Only on very rare occasions as the situation demanded did I use more than 30 degrees of flap. Have to balance airspeed, wind conditions, crosswinds, full passengers or solo, many different aspects to consider when landing.

  12. Fortson Rumble
    Fortson Rumble says:

    Full flaps, if the winds cause an issue I just go around. I value the lower landing speed more than I worry about gust.


    • Gary Kerr
      Gary Kerr says:

      With a crosswind, the faster an airplane flies, the less the crab or slip required. Consider a J-3 attempting to land with a 30-knot crosswind. It’s not going to be possible unless the airplane lands across the runway. Now consider Concorde approaching the same runway in the same conditions. With an approach speed of 200 knots the crab angle is certainly not going to be anywhere near the almost 90 degree crab required of the J-3. Concordes and J-3s don’t have flaps, but their speed difference does point out that there are times when speed is beneficial.

      Another thing to consider is when the wind is howling right down the runway. As an air traffic controller in Oklahoma, on one very cold and windy morning, I cleared a C-150 for takeoff. After a takeoff run of basically nothing, the plane was airborne. At low altitude, the plane was making progress down the runway, but not much. The pilot turned slightly to the right and by the time the plane had reached pattern altitude, climbing at what I assume was 70 MPH indicated, it was flying backwards on what I would normally call a downwind for runway 18R. Pointed in the wrong direction but traveling in the right direction for a downwind, the pilot decided to throw in the towel and return to land. Pushing the nose down, altering course a little to the left, and I assume maintaining significant power, the airplane was able to land WITHOUT FLAPS. With flaps, he probably would have landed, backwards, in Canada.

      Yes, with some airplanes, and in some wind conditions, you can go too slow!

      • Gary Kerr
        Gary Kerr says:

        Oh. Two other things.

        Some (most?) high-wing Cessnas have restrictions for slipping with full flaps. Bank into the wind, hold the nose straight with rudder, don’t use flaps, and single-engine Cessnas can handle crosswinds typically much higher than their “maximum demonstrated” values.

        Cessna 182’s are known for being nose heavy and bending firewalls. If you’re in a 182 by yourself, and there’s no weight in the back, consider the CG before you drop down 40 degrees of flaps when landing in the older models. Sure, it can be done, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it when approaching a short field, but the number of bent 182 firewalls suggest that many pilots don’t do it well.

  13. Luis
    Luis says:

    In my opinion, the flap degree depends on the wind, I have made landings without flaps due to the wind speep and on the other hand I have had to make a landing with full flaps.

    I guess it all depends on the landing and wind conditions.

  14. Bill
    Bill says:

    In a Supercub on a cross wind gusty day it real hard to keep the plane on the run way. It’s blown from one side to the other. Using 20 degree flap the plane is stable much easier to land. No flaps when there’s a lot of wind. Faster and longer ground roll. Fly it all the way to the ground withe some power

  15. Rafael Sierra
    Rafael Sierra says:

    I practice and teach landings with full, partial and no flap configuration. 40 or 30 degrees no problem or in the case of Cirrus aircraft I include practicing landings with no flaps as there is a common failure of the flap relays. Minimizing or no flap landing under crosswinds and forward and side slip practice with or without flaps is appropiate. Good practice makes better.

  16. Graf Hilgenhurst
    Graf Hilgenhurst says:

    I fly a couple of classic flight school beaters, known as “The Red 172” and “The Green 172”. After getting really good with “The Red 172” using full flaps (30 degrees), I took out “The Green 172”. I was a little high on final using 20 degrees of flaps, so without looking at the lever, I clicked it down to “full flaps”. To my horror, I watched my airspeed plummet to 45 knots and the stall horn came on. I lowered the nose, and dropped it onto the runway (no attempt at a flare). My first thought was that I got caught in some sort of wind shear. Then I looked at the flap lever. “The Green 172” goes to 40 degrees of flaps! So to answer the question, 20 degrees on final, go to 30 degrees if high and calm, stay at 20 degrees in a crosswind, and never 40 degrees. That’s one mistake I won’t make again!

    • Rafael Sierra
      Rafael Sierra says:

      Good practice makes better. Get some dual from a qualified instructor. Practice with 40 degrees, get familiar with the aircraft – you’ll know what to do next time. No flaps, little flaps, full flaps, wind, no wind – no problem.

  17. Philip Smith
    Philip Smith says:

    My default is full flap landings; I like the slower touch down, and the lower nose attitude that the flaps give you on approach. I also have a 172S, and if the winds are across the runway and gusty, I have found 20 degrees works real well, little extra speed and good control. I find people that never use flaps, because they appear to be uncomfortable with them, or maybe it is just laziness. With the 182 with full flaps the pilot needs to be more conscientious in getting the nose up for the flare, so he/she is touching down on the mains, and not wheel barrowing down the runway on the nose, less flaps would make that easier. All in all I Pilots need to be able to land with or without flaps. I still prefer the Full Flap Landing.

  18. Dennis Boyer
    Dennis Boyer says:

    I usually start out with “approach flaps” (15 in twins and singles) and twins I go to full flaps once the runway is assured. Main reason is my 310 does not want to slow down very easily without some flaps. 172’s and 182s will climb with full flaps – not spectacular but they will. Once you get to the key point use what you like. With students, we do flaps up, half and full. Some airplanes are easier to land with full than they are with half or none (C-177RGs) so to me the answer is “it depends”. Generally I use full flaps (slows the touchdown speeds and saves on tires).

    Crosswinds – “the book” usually says minimal flaps for the conditions and I usually do that. If I get to a hurt on the winds I am not afraid to use full though, and combine that with a “flat tire technique” or in multi, if I run out of rudder, differential power.

    • Rafael Sierra
      Rafael Sierra says:

      Dennis, here is another flap operating procedure not discuss much and somewhat controversial. I practice and agree with those who lower or raise flaps while turning. I would like to know who else agrees or not.

      • Dennis Boyer
        Dennis Boyer says:

        I’ve set the flaps in a turn also. As long as people remember what it does to the angle of attack (and the Cl) and have a feel for it there is nothing wrong. If you are high or in tight enough that will use flaps anyway, putting them out will help you get “around the turn”. I actually prefer mechanical flaps, and have used them to pop over varmints crossing the runway unexpectedly. They are also really great for spot landing contests!

  19. John Lillyston
    John Lillyston says:

    I’ve had vortex generators fitted to my Cessna 210. Although it’s not discussed as being a benefit, the improvement in crosswind landings is huge. Like most repondents I vary the degree of flaps to suit the conditions, but regardless of flap setting, the x-wind landings are a breeze.

  20. HRM
    HRM says:

    I fly a Mooney M20E Super 21 and rarely use flaps. With a Mooney speed control is everything and if you nail your speeds you don’t need flaps, the bird will touch down like an eagle alighting on her nest to feed her young.

    The Mooney is fitted with infinitely variable hydraulic flaps and they are useful for fine tuning the landing, that is all. To say “always use” or “never use” with a mooney is just nonsense.

  21. steve
    steve says:

    I could strongly argue that the selection of flaps depends on a lot of variables. However, for a good SOP starting point, I could argue no flaps for takeoff and no flaps for the approach (VFR or IFR) until the runway is in sight and made and then add landing flaps at that point… usually 200 to 500 agl. This works well for most GA planes up to King Airs.

    And adding the variables, on can adjust technique accordingly… short, soft, wind, ice, etc.

    • Dennis Boyer
      Dennis Boyer says:

      Steve, think we are saying the same thing. Use flaps consistent with the conditions and what you are comfortable with. Agree on the landing flaps at the landing commit point and what I do.

  22. Ralph Finch
    Ralph Finch says:

    I kinda prefer forward slips and they’re the only descent control I have on my Alon Aircoupe at idle throttle. Slips can be straightened out faster than electric flaps, and change only drag, not lift, so no danger of sinking abruptly when you remove a slip.

    • Greg Meyer
      Greg Meyer says:

      I liks slips too, mostly because they’re fun. It makes me feel like I’m flyin. I thought the Aircoupe didn’t have rudders. How do you slip without rudders?

  23. Dave Evans
    Dave Evans says:

    This so depends on the plane. Going no flaps on a B 727 requires like twenty miles of runway, not that I fly them but my brother in law did and loved that hot rod three holer. His advice was, if you got me, use em. I’m a Skyhawk driver and love those huge flaps. The view over the nose on short final with flaps 30 is awesome, making it so easy to spot land every time. If you stay on the rudder gusty crosswinds are not a big deal. On the other hand, I flew a Grumman Tiger, great plane, fast, great handling and all, but you might as well forget that it has flaps as they do about nothing. Plus if you flick the tiny flap switch, down they go and up they come! Cherokee flaps are pretty fair but if you want to get into someplace really short with four on board the old hawk is your bird. Yeah, I’m biased. Thirty years on and still my favorite.

    • steve
      steve says:

      Your brother “may” be right, but the premiss of “if you have them, use them” may not be the very best advise. Sure, when I flew the 727, flaps were a necessity, but not always full flaps. Similar to our GA planes, but really a different animal. In GA we really can operate without flaps at all.

      I’d argue to use flaps only when they are necessary for the operation at hand, with a tad bit of “technique” when wanted.

  24. Bill
    Bill says:

    My super cub likes river bars and sand bars the best. Use the first notch of flaps to look around the area good first slowing the plane down to 50 or less. Then set up your approach And give it full flaps dragging it in behind the power curve. Drag the 31″ tundra tires in the water with some power and as soon as the tires hit the dry rocks dump the flaps and get on the brakes carefully chop the power and your there. Throw out the dog and tent. Start cooking dinner

  25. Scott Hendricks
    Scott Hendricks says:

    I like using all the flaps almost all the time. I only remember a few landings in 40 years with less than full on any single engine plane. Further, I always prefer the armstrong/handle bar flaps over electric ones. I just like the fine control you can have both adding or retracting. My father was the same way, so that might also have something to do with it. Can’t comment much about larger multi engine airplanes.

  26. Paul Kachurak
    Paul Kachurak says:

    I fly a Skyhawk 172R. Our home airport runway is 2300×40. The shifting surface winds can be problematic resulting from airflow over a small mountain just off the runway. My partner and I have practiced various flap settings on approach. Consistently, 65-70 mph with 20 degrees of flap is the winning combination for our aircraft. We feel we have greater control and can quickly adjust should we need to go around for any reason. From time to time, we will change our configuration based upon landing weight and significantly higher density altitude. In the end, every landing is different, and you’ve got to know your aircraft.

  27. Angel OLEA
    Angel OLEA says:

    I own a Cessna 150F with a Lycoming 150 hp
    This particular plane has max of 40* flaps position. I personally forbid 40* flap landings to students. This particular flap position requires a specific training because if the pilot reduces power higher than necessary the plane will loose speed so rapidly that a student might have an accident or at least a very hard landing. Go,around in a 40* flap in a hot and high elevation airport is also very easy to have an accident. This is a no mistake flap position and require real knowledge and training.
    . I am not sure but in newer planes this flap position was removed.
    I normally operate in a 2300 feet x 40 grass strip and a 30* flap landing is more than enough flap position for short runways.

  28. Mark Fay
    Mark Fay says:

    Full 40 degrees of flaps. Always.

    A Cessna test pilot, all of my friends who fly the big iron and my trusted instructor all agree – in the 182 no reason to not use full flaps. Every time.

    But, sometime – just for fun – I would like to try Gordon Baxter’s idea of full flaps to the flare and then take out a notch to paint it on.

    He wrote that once in Flying Mag about his Mooney.

    Anybody ever try that one?

  29. Charles Lloyd
    Charles Lloyd says:

    It depends.

    I have owned a 1966 C182 for 15 years. The Skylane has the Horton STOL Kit and pitch control is marginal in the flare at flaps 40.

    My home airport is a lighted 1,800 grass strip ten miles SW of ICT. I carry a 40 lb sandbag in the baggage compartment and now use flaps 20 to achieve improved pitch control. Using AOA I have no problem landing comfortably using this technique – wet grass and all.

  30. David
    David says:

    I didn’t hear much about slips to landing. This was a required manuever when I did my ppl. It’s probably not much use these days, but I thought it was a good learning manuever and fun too.

    • steve
      steve says:

      Slips are appropriate in all planes. I had done them in the jet and Baron, but not really necessary, for the most part. I much prefer good speed control and flaps as necessary.

    • Rafael Sierra
      Rafael Sierra says:

      Thre three types of slips, two are required training by the FAA:

      1.) Turning slip to a landing – Not FAA MANDATED BUT EXCELLENT MANEUVER TO MASTER
      2.) Forward slip – FAA mandated
      3.) Side slip – FAA mandated

      All cand be done with no or partial flaps. A good understanding and training is a good thing.

  31. steve
    steve says:

    Ah, but gentlemen and ladies, have you not experienced a Champ or a Colt…no flaps. But those planes love a slip. As for flaps…it depends, as so stated above many times…

  32. Steve S
    Steve S says:

    FWIW, there’s 2 Steves, so I added an initial.

    As for slips…. while they are nice, rarely a necessity, unless you don’t have flaps.

      • Steve S
        Steve S says:


        Sure, slips are nice to know, but far from a necessity unless you just have no flaps and/or need a descent steeper the 6d, which is extremely rare. And I could argue that steep would be beyond my comfort level, with a few exceptions.

        I haven’t needed a slip in 30 years, and never had an issue. Just plan accordingly and/or pull more power off and it works

    • Steve S
      Steve S says:


      Let me clarify, I though the discussion was the use of slips for the descent profile in place of flaps, not a slip for landing as one is rounding out. Sure, slips for crosswind are SOP and appropriate for all planes, unless on has crosswind gear.

      Sorry for the confusion.

  33. Paul Hendershot
    Paul Hendershot says:

    Depends on the conditions, the airport, and the mood your in. Flying my American Traveler AA-5 and having learned on Cheetahs at KRBD (6,500) with plenty of runway, like most of TX. I found, flaps did not change the speed as much as it would upset the pitch and make the aircraft lose altitude rather quickly. Another factor was the cheetahs rather unforgiving nose gear and the tendency to porpoise. It was much easier to cut the power, keep the flaps up, slip to bleed of speed if we had to, hold off, and grease the landing. Moved to 14A, Lake Norman Airpark, north of Charlotte,trees,and half the runway, learned very quickly to use full flaps, even a few kts can make a difference, squeeze as much lift as I can out of the wing, work the throttle more. Neither was right or wrong, depends on the plane and conditions.

  34. John Dill
    John Dill says:

    For safety I like to stay as high as possible on final and use full flaps to make a steep descent to the runway. A good friend of mine lost his engine on final and failed to make the runway, which cost him his life. Since then I always plan for the same happening to me.

    • Steve S
      Steve S says:

      Agreed on staying high… in most small planes it’s fairly easy to fly a 4.5 degree path, and even a 6 degree if necessary.

  35. Glenn Roy
    Glenn Roy says:

    The Cessna 172 40 degree flap setting will kill you on a go-around. In the mid-seventies, as I approached 1000 hours single seat jet time and multiple carrier landings in an A-7E, I rented a 172 to take three college friends on a sight seeing tour of East Gainesville and the closed Pine Castle bombing range near Ocala. On the way back to GNV I demoed an engine failure approach to a very long green farm. Crossed the electric lines at the boarder road with full flaps and a moderate power setting. Stupidly went down to about 20 feet over the rows of green vegies, and initiated a wave off. Full power and the plane just sat there at about 50 knots and was not accelerating. Sixty foot pine forest at the far end ahead. Decision: Set it down and tear off the wheel pants, or clear the trees. I finally figured out that if I milked the flaps up, the airspeed indicator increased without losing altitude. Held it level at about thirty feet until I got most of the flaps out and about 75 knots and pulled up at the last second to clear the tops of the trees. Brown pants was a possibility. Went back to GNV and duplicated over concrete, with the exact same result. Very puzzled at the danger of no acceleration on wave off, I went back to the FBO and asked for the book. No kidding, there is a Warning buried in the back of the handbook about go around with full flaps. Knowledge, coupled with skill, less a Warning, equals extremely stupid and very lucky. So, in your discussion, I will go with 20 degrees of flaps all day and all night in a 172. P.S. carrier planes use full flaps.

      • David
        David says:

        I’ve only flown one single engine with 40 degrees flaps and didn’t have any problems with it. I would submit that you could have the same issue with a 172 wave off at 30 degrees flaps. I always go immediately to 20 degrees, then 10, then 0. Small singles don’t tend to handle 30 – 40 degrees flaps very well with full power.

        • Steve S
          Steve S says:

          Agreed, the 172 with 40 d flaps works if you understand the drag. I had one for two years and flew 400 hours a year with it. However, I rarely used 40 d because there was no benefit and lots of negative.
          That was years ago, and have been into the Beechcraft for the past 35 years and full flaps is not an issue with those planes.

    • Kristian
      Kristian says:


      I fly on my farmstrip home in Karlstad Sweden with my C172E (180hp, Vortex, constantspeed, bushwheels.
      I use 30-40* flap for landing and 10* for take off. Take off and landingroll is prox 500ft. Go around with 40 gives wery bad climbe.

  36. Roger Phillips
    Roger Phillips says:

    I learned to fly from a bush strip in Africa and it was always drilled into me to make sue I could make the field before putting flaps down. Then it was important not to lose that asset by putting down too much (in a Cherokee) too early, so I kept that style of flying when I moved to the UK where my instructor was an airline jet jockey. We had a major difference of opinion about using a 3 degree approach in a single prop plane!! One day our C152 had a fuel problem on he approach and only just limped across the fence! From then on we were “encouraged” to make the field before using all the flaps. As far as minimising speed, what matters is the ground speed on touch down and in strong winds, half flap and +10kts on approach speed still gave a very short landing run and much better control.

  37. Eddie a.
    Eddie a. says:

    For cirrus aircraft, I say full flaps all the time, the manual is pretty clear on this. For The Tiger that I fly a lot, flaps as needed but usually full flaps. For Cessna (up to 182, I’ve never flown heavier), I plan for 20 degrees and deploy 30 if necessary except for soft, short or both when you need 30. Never flown a Cessna wit a 40 degree flap capability, as I recall, you should be careful about using it, you may have trouble on a go around.

  38. Gary Buchanan
    Gary Buchanan says:

    I tell my students flying 152s and 172s that 20 is normal, 0-10 for xwinds, 30 only if you are absolutely too high or too fast on final, 40 for actual short runways (3000 ft isnt short). otherwise you are too slow on final and controlability becomes a major concer, especially on days with any sort of decent wind.

  39. Rafael Sierra
    Rafael Sierra says:

    Gary, I teach students to use flaps as needed, any degree, under any wind conditions, identify wind direction, minimum white arc speed and configuring for short and soft field landings always and anticipating a side slip prior to runway contact.

  40. Gary Buchanan
    Gary Buchanan says:

    Rafael, there is certainly more than one way to do it. My guidelines are just what I’ve found works the best with my new students. Heck, a lot of times when I’m alone I don’t even use the flaps because the 172 (and especially the 152) lands just fine without them. Airspeed is king and as long as you keep the approach speed where it should be, the flaps do nothing but steepen the approach- not an issue for the flat terrain here in central Wisconsin.

    • Sedona
      Sedona says:

      Gary you’re 100% right. No need for ’em in heavy cross wind and they just make it tougher on the inexperienced student. The second they learn no-flap cross-wind landings they’ll never go back (perhaps 10-degree at most, just for ‘mental’ security).

  41. Rafael Sierra
    Rafael Sierra says:

    For Cirrus is good to practice landings with 50% and no flaps as occasionally there are flap relay problems.

  42. Charles Prior
    Charles Prior says:

    I am a British pilot with 700 hrs on a 40 degree 172 . Absolutely loved it , could land it anywhere in any wind. But ; Always remember , speed is king , the secret is to keep the speed up on the approach and drop the 40 over the threshold. Landing speed 45. Lovely . Takes a bit of practice, but lovely. I now fly a DR400, very nice, but not the same. PS . Don’t attempt a go-around with 40 flaps, you’ll probably go home with your head in a sling

  43. John
    John says:

    I am an American Airlines pilot with almost 30,000 flight hours, and have NEVER had an issue with flaps full.

  44. Mac Barksdale
    Mac Barksdale says:

    For Cirrus is good to practice landings with 50% and no flaps as occasionally there are flap relay problems.

    This is the only remark I observed ref Wing Flap control systems. In all the planes I taught in; I taught “Full Flap” is a normal landing. However in the older Cessnas with 40 degree flaps I taught NEVER use full flaps until the landing is assured. NOT away from the home field and practicing apph and or landings. The reason was that sometimes the flap switch [light weight and sometimes failed] was Mickey Mouse and there were times when the wing flaps could not be retracted. Most of those airplanes would fly with 40 deg flaps but barely! So consider no go around with full 40 degree flaps. Mac

  45. Sedona
    Sedona says:

    Oh geez. Can’t even believe this is a debate. Been flying since 1986 (owned largest FBO in one of 2 largest metro area in mid-atlantic/northeast with more than 3 dozen planes on the line on any given day) and flown in every possible condition. Was trained initially (in 80’s by a good military marine pilot) and his practice was in a heavy cross-wind never use ANY flaps. Had me train with no flaps for countless hours until I sort of got drilled in my head that flaps are a luxury now. Sure on the large majority of days, in any airplane, with no heavy cross wind, I use full flaps. Second I see wind-shear cautions and heavy crosswind component, no flaps are used (occasionally 10-degree or half that). Someone said “full flaps are easier on tires etc.” You’re not going to wear out the tires on a single no flap landing coming in a bit hot. It’s just plain easier on you in a side-slip, keeping nose right on the center line and IMMEDIATE pickup (i.e., least drag) in a quick necessary go-around. I’m not advertising coming in exceeding cross-wind component – – but have come in many times with cross-wind component potentially exceeding pub. numbers – – and never a problem with no-flaps. Again, just easier – – start doing it and get used to it and you’ll never go back to flaps.

    • Sedona
      Sedona says:

      PS – one add’l benefit, if in a heavy cross-wind and you have to do an immediate go-around and flaps fail you (elec. out, mechanical etc.) you don’t have a single thing to worry about – – you on an immediate minimal drag climb out. No flaps is easiest and best over strategy.

  46. Steve S
    Steve S says:

    This whole thread has little value in general, as it’s really airplane specific. This needs to be narrowed down a lot, just too many variables.

      • Duane
        Duane says:

        Actually, Flyboy, that’s not correct. The author’s post originally mentioned no particular aircraft, simply posed the question, “What do you think? Full flaps or partial flaps? Does it depend on the airplane? Add a comment below.”

        It’s not aircraft specific as to the notion of the pilot needing to decide whether and when to use full flaps, partial, or none on landings, unless your bird lacks flaps altogether as some of the ancient aircraft designs did.

        The discussion in most of the thread was about personal preferences, and rationale behind them, for how much flap to use and under what circumstances. It’s interesting to see what commenters say, because most of us (like me) tend to assume that whatever it is that we were originally taught, and still subscribe to, is what all pilots do. The reality is, as with most subjects having to do with piloting technique, we pilots are all over the map in our preferences.

        That’s why this website exists. It’s good to hear different opinions, and to occasionally question what we’ve always assumed was “standard practice.”

  47. Donald G Henderson
    Donald G Henderson says:

    Flaps are on the airplane to allow a slower airspeed at touchdown. My vote is full flaps unless the wind is gusty to the point a sudden loss of the gust could trigger a premature stall. Then use half flaps.

  48. Miss Moira
    Miss Moira says:

    I’m a student in a Cessna 152. Gone solo. Still a novice. My first instructor was a full-flaps man (unless conditions dictated otherwise). My second instructor prefers a 20 degree flap approach and landing (unless conditions require something else). The POH says full flap is ‘normal.’ I can see an advantage in the 20 deg flap landing – as if the electrics go when you’re on 30 deg you’re stuck with 30 degrees – and a go-around might turn into a not-go-very-far.

    As I have no problems landing with partial flaps, I rather like the idea. But the first instructor has hysterics at the mention of such a wicked thing.

    While the instructors fight it out, who out there will support me in my 20 degree approach and landing? I really don’t mind whether I have full flap or no flap as far as LANDING is concerned. It’s the go-around I worry about. I LIKE the idea of having only 20 degree of flap.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      I don’t know your age, but you are very wise in your understanding of the adverse possibilities (balked landing and go-around). In any landing, the pilot must be established on final approach. That means, on the glide slope, proper speed and knowing the aircraft your flying. I am always practicing landings, and I have a ton of them. The dogmatic approach to full flaps each time, every time does not sit well with me. One day, I was at a neighboring airport shooting landing after landing in a C172, maybe 12 or so. The airport manager, a longtime pilot with thousands of hours, approached me after my final landing as I pulled up to the fuel depot and said: “I loved watching you, seeing what you were doing. I wish more pilots would put the practice time in their landings.” I said, I do that because I have to “feel” the airplane. Over the years, it has been my practice in all types of aircraft, from C150’s to SR22’s. Know your airplane. Get the feel of the bird. Work, work, work on establishing the correct approach. It will lead you to controlled landings. Happy flying.

      • Miss Moira
        Miss Moira says:

        Hello Paul. Thank you for your advice. I’m an old lady – flying is on the bucket list! Instructor 1 and 2 continue to fight it out. Today it was 20deg flap. And it was fine. The full-flaps-in any-conditions-and-I’ve-never-had-any-problems man seems a wee bit inflexible. Good pilot/instructor – but I like to argue the toss, and he won’t. They also argue about carb heat HOT/COLD on landing. I can see both sides of the argument, and spent 6 hours at the weekend googling every ref I could. Opinion split. Cesssna 152 POH says carb heat COLD AFTER landing, and that would go with throttle in/carb heat in at same time if you need go-around. Seems easy to remember that! (whatever height you decide go-around – throttle/carb cold). School rule in general – carb heat COLD about 200’/300′ and you just need to push throttle in for go-around. (flaps to consider too of course!). But what about if you go-around at 350′ ? You think THROTTLE FLAPS and forget about carb heat and risk losing rpm, and maybe getting detonation? Seems to me that going with the POH and training yourself in throttle/carb ht cold/flaps is good for all go-arounds, irrespective of starting height. What would YOU do in a Cessna 152?

        • Paul
          Paul says:

          I trained on a C150. The operational/technological value, or need, for carb heat on slow flight and approach is to clear the carb throat, making sure that if a balked landing occurs, you are assured of a clear dry carb. Remember, you just cut the power, hence less fuel in the carb and potentially deadly moisture. The procedure I have always followed is to bring in all available power (throttle up), carb heat off allowing maximum fuel flow into the dried out carb, establish adequate rate of speed, retract flaps in stages, and then climb out.

          I did have a carburetor freeze on me just after takeoff on a humid 83 degree morning. At 3500ft, I had everything I could do to melt that clog and keep the engine running.

          Moral of the story, keep that carb clear of ice, at times with heat, and/or fuel. Then, go fly a fuel injection equipped plane. You’ll enjoy it much more . . . . :-)

  49. Dean
    Dean says:

    My preference would always be to land with full flaps . Reasons are pretty obvious. That is what they are made for, keeping you up in the air and in control at a lower speed. If I had a 10 mile runway, it would not make any difference, full flaps would always be my number one choice.

    If winds or any other factors do not permit that, then it would be the next best thing.

    I have aborted approaches with full flaps on chessnas and pa p28s and (albeit reduced climb rate) aircraft still climbs comfortably.

    • Miss Moira
      Miss Moira says:

      Thank you for your reply, Dean. I started my training doing full flaps (apart from flapless practice). But then my 2nd instructor got me doing 20 deg flaps – partly I think because he likes that edge if you need go-around. I suppose the electrics could go and if you’re on full flap the climb away would be jolly laboured. I notice opinion is still split on all this! I think I’ll simply stay flexible at the moment. I’ll try full flaps, and partial flaps, and get some practice. I’m a beginner still. I need to try the options, and get a lot of opinions from experienced folk. Could I ask if you are a carb heat hot or cold on landing? Debate rages here too, I see.

  50. dean
    dean says:

    moira, there are always debates. i always follow the book. carb heat in hot till i touch the ground and goes off as soon as is safe to do so (cockpit load/tasks allow). i don’t see any advantage in removing carb heat at 2-300′. i like to keep it simple and do it on the ground!

    if i was to establish some sort of priority it would be flaps up on touchdown and then carb heat. plane will still climb with carb heat but once on the ground, it is a good idea to keep your wheels stuck to the runway (hence the reasoning in bringing up flaps).

    ps: i am sure that the debate will now extend to flaps once wheels are on the ground!

  51. Miss Moira
    Miss Moira says:

    Ah! I think you are right. Debate will rage! Instructor no.1 was a carb heat COLD on landing, and I obeyed. But instructor 2 is a keep-carb-heat-on man. And I think it might be simpler for me to remember on a go-around to push BOTH throttle and carb heat in. It would work from whatever height you decide to go-around. And the POH does say land hot.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Dean’s advice is good advice. For safety sake, keep that carb heat on during landing. The only time when you should deviate is if you’re in the desert where dryness, mixed with heat, will keep that carb throat clear. Then, fire Instructor #1. ;-)

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Where in England. I flew out of Bodmin (Cornwall) in 2013 using an instructor by the name of Harold. Went west to the Atlantic, down the coast almost to Newquay, then turned eastward, up the channel and back to Bodmin.

  52. Miss Moira
    Miss Moira says:

    Near Cambridge. Rougham. It was an American air force base in the 2nd world war. The old Nissen huts and camouflaged control tower are still there – as a little museum. There are plaques with the names of all the crews killed. Many ditched in the cold, unforgiving North Sea.

  53. Chris
    Chris says:

    Personally I don’t like full flap. I actually like as little as possible because I feel I have more control. Almost all pvt runways are 7000 to 10000 so that’s way more than needed. If it is 5-6k, full flap and tighten your belt and hit the heals. I do not necessarily recommend that, just personal preference.

  54. Svein ErikAam
    Svein ErikAam says:

    I’m reading these comments about Flaps during landings and I’m seeing some peoples instructors have them land not with full flaps.I saw one where they were concerned with loosing electrical power and not being able to get the flaps up in a go around. I learned to fly in the Mile High City where the ground speed is higher than the indicated airspeed. Especially when its HOT outside. That means that the landing distance is long. So landing at a slower speed is advantageous. Plus they help reduce the takeoff distance. I have also been a computer airline captain and flaps greatly reduced airspeed and the landing distance which made landing in Aspen Colorado much safer.

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