Why Do Aircraft Land on Their Rear Wheels First?

When one gazes at the sky and observes an aircraft making its descent for landing, a peculiar phenomenon often catches the eye–the aircraft frequently touches down on its rear wheels before the front ones. This sight may prompt questions about the rationale behind this landing sequence and the factors that govern it. In this blog, we will explore the captivating realm of aircraft landing gear while delving into the scientific principles that dictate airplane rear-wheel-first landings.

The Anatomy of Aircraft Landing Gear

Before delving into the intricacies of aircraft landings, it is imperative to gain a comprehensive understanding of the pivotal components at play. An aircraft landing gear assembly constitutes a multifaceted system that features a plethora of aviation hardware components, including wheels, tires, struts, and shock absorbers. The landing gear assumes a dual role, serving as both a supportive element during takeoff and landing and a stabilizing force during ground taxiing maneuvers.

The Glideslope and Approach Angle

The aircraft's approach to landing is subject to a multitude of influencing factors, such as its weight, velocity, and the dimensions of the runway. Of paramount significance is the consideration of the glideslope, denoting the angle at which the aircraft descends towards the runway. The glideslope assumes a pivotal role in facilitating the pilot's ability to uphold a secure and uniform descent rate throughout the approach phase. When following a standard glide path, pilots will keep the aircraft around 3 degrees above ground level to avoid any obstructions.

Nose Gear vs. Main Gear

Most commercial aircraft have a landing gear configuration with a combination of nose gear and main gear. The nose gear is prominently situated at the front section of the aircraft, positioned directly beneath the cockpit. In contrast, the main gear is strategically located beneath the wings, closer to the aircraft's aft region. The main gear is characteristically composed of two or more assemblies of wheels, each supported by struts and outfitted with shock absorbers.

The Role of Aircraft Flaps

To comprehend the prevalent practice of rear-wheel landings, it is also imperative to delve into the functionality of flaps. Flaps come in the form of mobile surfaces situated on the wings, capable of extension during both takeoff and landing phases. Their extension enhances lift and drag, allowing the aircraft to maintain a steep descent angle while upholding a controlled airspeed. This elevated approach angle is fundamental for the accomplishment of a secure and meticulously executed landing.

Balancing Weight and Control

As an aircraft commences its descent for landing, pilots execute pitch angle adjustments to regulate the rate of descent, ensuring a seamless touchdown. It is at this time that the design of the landing gear assumes major significance. Positioned towards the rear of the aircraft, the main gear shoulders the bulk of the aircraft's weight, including that of the engines and fuel. The practice of landing on the rear wheels primarily serves to evenly distribute this weight across the landing gear, enhancing stability and bolstering control throughout the landing phase.

Minimizing Stress on the Nose Gear

Opting for a rear-wheel-first landing strategy additionally serves to mitigate stress exerted on the nose gear. The nose gear, comparatively smaller and less resilient than the main gear, is primarily tasked with supporting the weight of the aircraft's nose section. A gentle contact of the main gear with the runway permits the nose gear to softly descend, thereby diminishing the likelihood of harm to this critical assembly.

Safety and Comfort for Passengers

Furthermore, the rear-wheel-first landing approach prioritizes passenger comfort and safety. This technique facilitates a seamless transition from flight to ground operations, resulting in reduced jolting or abrupt movements for passengers inside the cabin.


In conclusion, the landing sequence where an aircraft touches down on its rear wheels first is a carefully engineered and precisely executed maneuver. Its primary objective is to guarantee the safety, stability, and comfort of both passengers and the crew, as well as the physical safety of aircraft assemblies themselves. Several factors, including the glideslope, the function of aircraft flaps, and the even distribution of weight across the landing gear, collectively contribute to determining this highly coordinated landing approach.

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Posted on October 19, 2023 emily bailey



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