Landing the Plane Class Review

| November 23, 2015 | 4 Comments

Two weekends ago I attended the “Landing the Plane (LTP)” class taught by local instructor Mike Anderson from Shoot the Gun. I first met Mike at this year’s Extreme Close Quarters Concepts class taught by Craig Douglas of Shivworks.

As described by Mike, Landing the Plane is a lightweight, introductory course for people who may or may not have a background in self-defense.

I think this is must-have training for people who are deciding if they are going to continue learning how to protect themselves.

LTP started as an extended analysis of the “managing unknown contacts” unit in Shivworks’s ECQC class. Landing the Plane covers a lot of topics, but it’s important to understand the roots and origin of the class in order to appreciate the material being taught.

One of my criticisms of the Shivworks ECQC class is that the segment on managing unknown contacts is too short, especially given the preference of Contact Management vs Contact Avoidance. Almost every student stopped moving when they attempted to verbally encounter an unknown contact. Once their mouth started moving, everything else shut down, something I describe as “tunnel mouth” instead of our familiar friend “tunnel vision.”

Mike’s class dives deeper into how to manage unknown contacts. His class is very firmly rooted in realism and every day life. LTP provides a series of checkpoints that allow you to make more and more educated decisions about a person’s intent.

Landing the Plane was a little over seven and a half hours (including a lunch break). The cost was $150 per attendee.

Topics covered


  • The types of spaces in which we interact with others, and different expectations of distance and behavior within those spaces
  • Environmental context (e.g., “is this normal behavior in this specific environment?)
  • Identifying environments that may support violent criminal activity
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Recognizing pre-fight indicators
  • Being targeted vs being selected
  • Awareness as a commodity
  • Using containment as a way to minimize risk
  • Verbal, positional, and postural ways to manage unknown contacts


  • Dealing with a threat


  • How to call 911
  • How to safely interact with responding officers
  • Post-incident strategies including legal representation, and giving statements to law enforcement

Note that the “fight” portion was given the least amount of time and material. The intent of the class is to create a series of checkpoints and responses that anyone can use to maximize their awareness and minimize risk. This is an excellent decision by Mike, and he does not make any assumptions about the skills and tools possessed by the students (more on that in a moment).

Landing the Plane is about recognizing potential disasters, and what to do after you’ve resolved them. I consider the fight / resolution phase to be over-emphasized by a lot of schools, and the material covered in LTP is critical.

Student Composition

There were seven women and three men in the class, not including Mike and his male assistant instructor.

The ages ranged from college aged (presumably early 20s) to late 40s / early 50s.

Physical capabilities and conditioning ranged greatly, from sedentary to extremely active and mobile.

Skillset and mindset also varied considerably. Some of the students had gone their entire adult lives without self-defense training of any kind. Others have been training extensively across a broad spectrum of disciplines for a wide range of scenarios.

Teaching Style

This particular class probably 70% lecture, 30% practical. It can be hard to keep a classes’s attention for such a long period of time, and Mike did a good job at breaking up the content and pacing to keep everyone engaged. He also asked the class questions, and asked for their experiences at certain key moments. The interaction between Mike and the attendees resulted in a more collaborative feel.

Time went by much faster than the 45 – 60 minute lectures that nearly bored me to sleep at Rangemaster this year.

Mike did a good job keeping the practical parts of the class simple and repetitive. Verbal and physical techniques were broken down into their smallest components, and then layered on top of each other. Mike followed the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” technique.

I think this particular attendee demographic would benefit from even more repetition and summary.

Mike has an approachable demeanor. He’s very friendly and talks in a clear and concise manner. It was interesting for me to see Mike this way, since the first time I met him we were forehead-to-forehead and trying to push each other to the ground.

General Observations

  • We often write / talk about “situational awareness,” but a class like LTP breaks that concept down into specific considerations that you can practice any time, any where.
  • I liked the self-defense strikes Mike taught. They were simple and easy to understand. My favorite was the eye strikes, something also covered by Craig Douglas and some other instructors.
  • I also liked that Mike very clearly and repeatedly stated this was a foundational class, and that what we learned was just the beginning.
  • It became very clear that some attendees were never going to carry a tool of any kind. They had not, and probably will not, acquire any skills to fend off a violent attack. This mixed class of philosophies was extremely important for me. I am going to write about this in a separate post.
  • Mike made the final drill of the day optional. It involved interacting with an unknown contact, played by the assistant instructor. I think making the drill optional is the right move, given the skill levels of some of the participants. Only five students participated, which was surprising to me. I will be interested to see if this percentage is consistent in other LTP classes.
  • One student had a very emotional experience during the drill. Mike did a great job handling this episode. He allowed the student to experience the emotions, then walked the student step-by-step what they should do vs what they did, and then had the student run the drill again. I think this was a great way to handle a tough moment.
  • During the final drill, students were given a SIRT training pistol. The pistol was supposed to symbolize “force” used by the student when positioning and verbalization failed. I appreciate this idea, but I think that some attendees were so unfamiliar with a gun that it made the drill more difficult for them. I would recommend several different symbols and let the student choose which one (if any) they want to take. A training knife, training pistol, empty chemical spray canister, etc might make students more comfortable.
  • The post-shooting portion of the class was very good. I’d like to see more about complying with and speaking to (or not speaking to) law enforcement.


Everyone should take this class.

The material helps everyone, regardless of what discipline, tool-focus, or strategy they focus on first.

I think Landing the Plane is most valuable for people thinking about self-defense, but have not yet made a commitment.  It’s helpful for some people to discover they aren’t emotionally wired to fight, and should be honest with their capabilities.

Those of us with more experience can also benefit from this class:

  • It always helps to refresh and re-evaluate your techniques for identifying threats
  • It will help you develop language to talk to non-fighters about self-defense
  • You may be able to mentor new fight-focused students by inviting them to attend this class with you.

I don’t like the idea of standardized training before someone can own a self-defense tool, but if there was some kind of educational requirement I’d want LTP to be that class.

Pricing on a class like this is difficult. At $150 it compares to live-fire training available in the area. However, dropping the price lower may make it difficult for Mike to justify teaching the course. I like how AIM Precision offers bring-a-buddy pricing. Perhaps this class could be $150 for a solo attendee, or $125 if you bring a buddy.

Having talked with several instructors in several schools I know it’s harder to get students to pay for any class that doesn’t have live fire in it. However, you should spend the money for Landing the Plane.

There’s one more Landing the Plane scheduled for 2015, so please consider attending if you’re in the Midwest part of the country.


I attended Landing the Plane in exchange for providing feedback to Mike and Shoot the Gun. Writing this review was not part of the agreement, and my opinions here are honest and unsolicited.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

4 Comments on "Landing the Plane Class Review"

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  1. Nichole says:

    Thank you for the in-depth review of the course. Your post caught my attention after seeing it on my facebook feed when a friend shared it. I took a basic defensive handgun class where Mike was the instructor. I was very glad thst I did! His insights and ‘let’s be real’ manner of instruction helped us get the most out of the class. Since then, when seeing Mike at the range, he is always willing to answer questions (he has a way of bringing up some critical questions you have to answer for yourself, leading you to the conclusions you need). I will certainly look into taking his LTP training!

  2. david says:

    Sounds like an interesting class. What is his website — his name is so common I wasn’t able to find it on Google.

  3. B R Kurtz B R Kurtz says:

    Sounds like a GREAT concept! Even for professionals, maybe even ESPECIALLY for professionals. It also sounds like a great primer for families who new to the idea of armed to armed members.

    Just as important is avoiding conflict and it sounds like the Pre-Flight section is geared to that.

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