[HOW-TO] F/A-18E Landing Guide

Alright so we’ve taken our new jet out for some fun, now it’s time to put it back on the ground. You’re going to quickly find out that landing the Hornet is a little bit different than most jets. Traditionally landing a jet comes down to approaching and touching down at the slowest speed safely possible, but in the Hornet everything comes down to approaching and touching down so that the hook at the back of the jet is at the optimal angle to catch the arresting wires on a carrier deck. As such, instead of the jet computing a target airspeed to approach at, it is designed to be flown at a target AoA.

In our simulated jet, On- Speed AoA is approximately 7.5 degrees. Once the landing gear is down and locked, and the flaps are extended to Half or Full, the AFCS changes to Powered Approach ¶ mode. In PA mode the AFCS automatically trims pitch to maintain the target AoA, target AoA is adjusted using the Pitch Trim. To achieve and maintain the correct AoA we are given 2 guides, the AoA Indexer on the left side of the HUD, and the E-Bracket to the left of the Velocity Vector (VVS) inside the HUD. Alongside these guides there is a also a small triangle to the right of the VVS that displays your current airspeed trend. When accelerating it will begin moving above the VVS, the farther it moves the faster your are accelerating. When decelerating it will being moving below the VVS.

When at the correct onspeed AoA, the Indexer will display an amber Circle, and the VVS will sit at the centre of the E-Bracket


When our AoA is too low, the AoA Indexer will display a red arrow pointing upwards to advise you to increase AoA, and the VVS will sit in the bottom portion of the E-Bracket.

If our AoA becomes too high, the AoA Indexer will display a red arrow pointing downards to advise you to decrease AoA, and the VVS will sit in the top portion of the E-Bracket.

Now let’s start putting this all together, I recommend initially just practicing how the jet responds to PA mode by flying around at around 10,000 ft MSL so you have lot’s of room. We’re going to stabilize the jet in level flight at around 240 knots. We’re going to take this slowly, as you get more confident you can begin using things like the Speed Brake and Overhead Break Turns to speed the process up.

Now we’re going to deploy the landing gear, set flaps to Full, and reduce the throttle to idle. Once the E-Bracket displays, slowly begin adding Nose Up Trim inputs to keep the VVS on the horizon. It decelerates slowly at first, but as you get closer to 160 knots things start to happen faster, so be prepared. There is a bit of delay in the engines spooling back up, so you will also want to start adding throttle as you get closer to 160 knots. Continue adding Trim and throttle as needed until stabilized in level flight at onspeed AoA. The whole process goes roughly like this;

Now, for landing we’re normally at low weights and low speeds, in a jet designed to fly fast with engines to match. You’re going to find you have to be constantly adjusting the throttles to maintain your desired flight path, and it takes very little change in throttle to adjust. For those with Split Throttle setups, this is best accomplished using a process known as “walking the throttles”, Essentially you’re placing your hands on the throttles, and using gentle back and forth motions of your wrist to gradual move one throttle a small bit, then “walking” the other one up to match. It’s had to demonstrate but it looks kind of like this;

Now that we’re established on speed in level flight, you only use the stick for roll inputs, the throttles will effectively control your pitch now via the AFCS.

If you want to pitch up, you add throttle, as the speed increases the jet automatically pitches up to maintain AoA.

The opposite holds true for descending

In the below example, my hands weren’t on the stick at any point.

When completing a turn, the reduction in lift vector means you will need to add power as you enter the turn, and reduce it when exiting the turn. For higher bank angle turns you may need to use the stick to temporarily increase AoA to prevent excessive sink rates and/or Airspeed increases.

Now that we’ve gotten some practice in using PA mode, time to set the jet down. We’re going to perform a long straight in approach to keep things simple. Let’s look at our setup and how to get ourselves stabilized.

Ideally we want to approach at a 2.5-3 degree glidepath, the easiest way to do that is to have the Runway threshold roughly halfway between the Horizon line and 5 degrees nose down reference lines in the HUD.


Ok, so we’re left of the centreline, and high. So we’re going to need to turn right to obtain the centreline and maintain a higher descent angle.

Now we’re nicely established, and it’s just a matter of working the throttles to maintain this sight picture all the way down.


Now you can flare if you want to, but since the default is a US Navy livery, we’re planting the jet Navy style. Continue to work the throttles, as you get into the ground effect reduce the throttles to idle to prevent floating, and you should plant the jet at around 400-500 fpm. Engage the speed brakes and toe brakes as needed to slow down.

Disclaimer: I’m a little rusty and my pedals aren’t the greatest, so don’t judge the centreline deviation on touchdown too harshly.


This is awesome, thanks.

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Great write up. If you really want to fly it like the navy, you don’t flare, and you don’t reduce throttles to idle. You will land on AOA at between 600-700 FPM and fly the airplane to the runway.

Navy lands this way even at field-based airports in order to stay sharp for carrier ops. On the boat, throttles are not reduced to idle as once on the deck, throttles go full in case of a “bolter”.

I’m sure you’ve heard the comment you may hear as a passenger in an airliner when after a “firm” landing, someone says “Must be a Navy pilot”. :slight_smile:

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Purely for the simulated jet, due to the exaggerated ground effect if you don’t idle the throttles it’s prone to floating as the FCS will pitch up to maintain AoA.


" you should plant the jet at around 400-500 fpm " Wow…:grimacing:

Have at it!

RIGHT! - that’s there posted for a laugh.

This is the Science behind it.
Watch and inwardly digest my fellow Navy Aviators . . .

Yup. The US Navy doesn’t land aircraft. It flies them into the deck. Which makes sense, when you consider what it is you are trying to do when trying to trap. Flaring would be downright dangerous, since you’d then risk catching the wire while still airborne, and slamming nose-down into the deck. The proper technique is to fly on speed and on-glideslope until impact, and then go to full military power. If you’ve caught the wire you’ll stop. If you’ve missed, you are set to go around again.

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IRL, must be a “this can’t be right” feeling the first time you see the deck approaching at 400/500 fpm :thinking:

Follow the AOA, keep the bird on the landing zone. Don’t idle thrust. You will fly to the runway.

Do you know how to rescale the HUD on the glass? Mine looks like it’s very zoomed in and I can barely read the airspeed and altitude values.

I wonder if it has something to do with my Windows High-DPI scaling?

Press the middle mouse wheel

I swore I pressed the middle mouse wheel before, and it just switched to freelook mode as it always has for me. I guess that’s just how I set my mouse binding to. But I’ll see if I can change the camera settings mode and brind the mouse wheel back to default function. Thanks.

Post what binding you find, please. I’ve been trying to figure out how to zoom the HUD out a bit, and middle mouse button wasn’t working last time I tried.

There is a bug with the freelook function now. It zooms the view as you’ve stated which didn’t occur before. If you save a pilot view when you toggle freelook, it will zoom in. If you then hit your saved view, you will have freelook with a normal view of the HUD. It’s a workaround. But you’ll have to do this every time you toggle out and back into freelook.

Exactly this, which is weird because the angle of attack itself as senses by the AOA probe does not change in ground effect, the effective AOA changes due to reduced up- and downwash, but I assume Asobo makes ground effect affect the actual AOA.

Anyway, good write-up! I didn’t know what all this symbology means, I heard about this AOA mode but now it really makes sense. One little error I found is the color of the AOA arrows :wink:.

Calling it AOA mode seems confusing to me. because it is actual the velocity vector that is being maintained not the angle of attack. Though AOA is adjusted to maintain the VV so maybe that is where they get the name from.

In Powered Approach mode you mean (sorry for calling it AOA mode). My understanding is that it maintains a constant AOA not VV. To be sure, try and see what happens in a turn. In 1g-level flight you can directly relate AOA to airspeed.

First off, I love what you’ve done here. Thank you!

I have a question about this though. If it is the angle of the hook with respect to the deck that matters then I would think you would want a target pitch angle not AoA. Since the AoA is referenced to relative wind and changes with airspeed and vertical velocity but the pitch angle is fixed by the horizontal plane and the chord line, this would always keep the angle of the hook to the deck constant.

I don’t know how the Rhino has changed doctrine but carrier landing used to be guided by glide slope so that the aircraft would touchdown on the small area at the rear of the deck where they can catch a wire. Maybe the computers figure it all out so it can still grab the 3 wire by AoA instead of GS.

Excellent write up! Thank you so much for putting the time and effort in to create it.

Keep in mind the approach to the deck would be following a specific glide path angle using either the ICLS or IFLOS. So our flight path angle/VVS is already a set constant, so the only way to adjust the pitch angle on touchdown, is to adjust AoA. So in PA mode the AFCS maintains that AoA, and the throttles control your glide path. The added benefit being in the event of a bolter, the acceleration will automatically cause the AFCS to pitch up and initiate a climb to maintain AoA