This one’s for the folks in the Commercial Pilot stage of their training.
You might be knowing that the toughest part in the FAA CPL checkride is the Power-off 180. To successfully perform this approach and landing without failing the check, you have two choices – either go around (due to factors beyond your control like a wind gust, ATC instructions, etc.) or to land within 200 feet from your landing point.
During my initial stages of CPL training, I had a lot of difficulty in pulling off the power-off 180 successfully. I started getting frustrated and that did not help. Then one day, I asked one of the senior CFIs in my flight school if he had any pointers that could improve my landings. The advice he gave me then really opened my eyes. Though what he said seems simple and obvious to me now, it didn’t occur to me at the time. He told me:
Maintain your level and approach like any other landing and lower your flaps only when you NEED it; not a second before.
Before this, I always lowered the first 10° of flaps while on base after descending to 700 ft. and dumped the rest of the flaps (as required) once I turned final. I did this as if it was procedure, not really thinking about why I was doing it (probably because of the saying “too high is better than too low”).
During your checkride, most DPEs let you pick your own landing point on the runway and at our flight school we used the 1000-foot markers. To precisely touchdown at the start of the 1000-foot markers, the best trick is to aim for the numbers (this accounts for the distance lost during the flare). On your final approach, if you notice that you are either too high or too low, there is a trick for that as well.
If you notice that you’re too high to make the numbers, retract your flaps to 20° or even 10° if required. Since you’ll then pitch down to avoid a stall and maintain your best glide speed, your aircraft’s descent rate will increase and with practice, you can judge how much flaps you need to take out, to make your aiming point.
Alternatively, if you notice you’re too low, you can pitch up a little bit more than you normally would to let your aircraft travel that little extra distance (reduced drag due to ground effect) to hit your landing point.