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ALC-34: Maneuvering: Approach and Landing
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Landing Problems


When the airplane contacts the ground with a sharp impact, it tends to bounce back into the air.


Though the airplane’s tires and shock struts provide some springing action, the airplane does not bounce like a rubber ball. Instead, it rebounds into the air because the wing’s angle of attack was abruptly increased, producing a sudden addition of lift.


Diagram showing bouncing during touchdown.


The abrupt change in angle of attack is the result of inertia instantly forcing the airplane’s tail downward when the main wheels contact the ground sharply.


Since a bounce occurs when the airplane makes contact with the ground before the proper touchdown attitude is attained, it is almost invariably accompanied by the application of excessive back-elevator pressure. This is usually the result of the pilot realizing too late that the airplane is not in the proper attitude and attempting to establish it just as the second touchdown occurs.


The corrective action for a bounce is the same as for ballooning and similarly depends on its severity. When it is very slight and there is no extreme change in the airplane’s pitch attitude, a follow-up landing may be executed by applying sufficient power to cushion the subsequent touchdown, and smoothly adjusting the pitch to the proper touchdown attitude.


In the event a very slight bounce is encountered while landing with a crosswind, crosswind correction must be maintained while the next touchdown is made. 


Extreme caution and alertness must be exercised any time a bounce occurs, particularly when there is a crosswind. Inexperienced pilots will almost invariably release the crosswind correction. When one main wheel of the airplane strikes the runway, the other wheel will touch down immediately afterwards, and the wings will become level. Then, with no crosswind correction as the airplane bounces, the wind will cause the airplane to roll with the wind, thus exposing even more surface to the crosswind and drifting the airplane more rapidly.


When a bounce is severe, the safest procedure is to EXECUTE A GO-AROUND IMMEDIATELY. The go-around procedure should be continued even though the airplane may descend and another bounce may be encountered.



In a bounced landing that is improperly recovered, the airplane comes in nose first, setting off a series of motions that imitate the jumps and dives of a porpoise.


The problem is improper airplane attitude at touchdown, sometimes caused by inattention, not knowing where the ground is, mis-trimming or forcing the airplane onto the runway.


Diagram showing several aspects of porpoising.


Ground effect decreases elevator control effectiveness and increases the effort required to raise the nose. Not enough elevator or stabilator trim can result in a nose-low contact with the runway and a porpoise develops.


Porpoising can also be caused by improper airspeed control. Usually, if an approach is too fast, the airplane floats and the pilot tries to force it on the runway when the airplane still wants to fly. A gust of wind, a bump in the runway, or even a slight tug on the control wheel will send the airplane aloft again.


The corrective action for a porpoise is the same as for a bounce and similarly depends on its severity. When it is very slight and there is no extreme change in the airplane’s pitch attitude, apply power to cushion the subsequent touchdown, and smoothly adjusting the pitch to the proper touchdown attitude.


When a porpoise is severe, the safest procedure is to EXECUTE A GO-AROUND IMMEDIATELY.


In a severe porpoise, the pitch oscillations can become progressively worse, until the airplane strikes the runway nose first with sufficient force to collapse the nose gear. Pilot attempts to correct a severe porpoise with flight control and power inputs will most likely be untimely and out of sequence with the oscillations, and only make the situation worse.


No attempt to salvage the landing should be made. Full power should be applied while simultaneously maintaining directional control, and lowering the nose to a safe climb attitude.



Wheelbarrowing occurs when the airplane weight becomes concentrated on the nosewheel during the takeoff or landing roll.


It may cause loss of directional control during the landing roll because braking action is ineffective, and the airplane tends to swerve or pivot on the nosewheel, particularly in crosswind conditions.


One of the most common causes of wheelbarrowing during the landing roll is a simultaneous touchdown of the main and nosewheel, with excessive speed, followed by application of forward pressure on the elevator control.


Usually, the situation can be corrected by smoothly applying back-elevator pressure. However, if wheelbarrowing is encountered and runway and other conditions permit, it may be advisable to promptly initiate a go-around.



When the airplane contacts the ground during landings, its vertical speed is instantly reduced to zero. Unless provisions are made to slow this vertical speed and cushion the impact of touchdown, the force of contact with the ground may be so great it could cause structural damage to the airplane.


The purpose of pneumatic tires, shock absorbing landing gears, and other devices is to cushion the impact and to increase the time in which the airplane’s vertical descent is stopped.


The importance of this cushion may be understood from the computation that a 6-inch free fall on landing is roughly equal, to a 340-foot-per-minute descent. Within a fraction of a second, the airplane must be slowed from this rate of vertical descent to zero, without damage.


During this time, the landing gear together with some aid from the lift of the wings must supply whatever force is needed to counteract the force of the airplane’s inertia and weight. The lift decreases rapidly as the airplane’s forward speed is decreased, and the force on the landing gear increases by the impact of touchdown.


When the descent stops, the lift will be practically zero, leaving the landing gear alone to carry both the airplane’s weight and inertia force. The load imposed at the instant of touchdown may easily be three or four times the actual weight of the airplane depending on the severity of contact.



At times you may correct for wind drift by crabbing on the final approach. If the roundout and touchdown are made while the airplane is drifting or in a crab, it will contact the ground while moving sideways. This will impose extreme side loads on the landing gear, and if severe enough, may cause structural failure.


The most effective method to prevent drift in primary training airplanes is the wing-low method. This technique keeps the longitudinal axis of the airplane aligned with both the runway and the direction of motion throughout the approach and touchdown.


There are three factors that will cause the longitudinal axis and the direction of motion to be misaligned during touchdown: drifting, crabbing, or a combination of both.


If you have not taken adequate corrective action to avoid drift during a crosswind landing, the main wheels’ tire tread offers resistance to the airplane’s sideward movement in respect to the ground. Consequently, any sidewise velocity of the airplane is abruptly decelerated, with the result that the inertia force is as shown in this picture.


Diagram showing force on one main gear as result of drifting during touchdown.


This creates a moment around the main wheel when it contacts the ground, tending to overturn or tip the airplane. If the windward wingtip is raised by the action of this moment, all the weight and shock of landing will be borne by one main wheel. This could cause structural damage.


Not only are the same factors present that are attempting to raise a wing, but the crosswind is also acting on the fuselage surface behind the main wheels, tending to yaw (weathervane) the airplane into the wind. This often results in a ground loop.



A ground loop is an uncontrolled turn during ground operation that may occur while taxiing or taking off, but especially during the after-landing roll.


Drift or weathervaning does not always cause a ground loop, although these things may cause the initial swerve. Careless use of the rudder, an uneven ground surface, or a soft spot that retards one main wheel of the airplane may also cause a swerve. In any case, the initial swerve tends to make the airplane ground loop, whether it is a tailwheel-type or nosewheel-type.




Nosewheel-type airplanes are somewhat less prone to ground loop than tailwheel-type airplanes.


If the airplane touches down while drifting or in a crab, the pilot should apply aileron toward the high wing and stop the swerve with the rudder.


Brakes should be used to correct for turns or swerves only when the rudder is inadequate. Exercise caution when applying corrective brake action because it is very easy to overcontrol and aggravate the situation.


If brakes are used, sufficient brake should be applied on the low-wing wheel (outside of the turn) to stop the swerve. When the wings are approximately level, the new direction must be maintained until the airplane has slowed to taxi speed or has stopped.


In nosewheel airplanes, a ground loop is almost always a result of wheelbarrowing.



When landing in a crosswind, the upwind wing may rise during the after-landing roll whether or not there is a loss of directional control, depending on the amount of crosswind and the degree of corrective action.


Any time an airplane is rolling on the ground in a crosswind condition, the upwind wing is receiving a greater force from the wind than the downwind wing. This causes a lift differential. Also, as the upwind wing rises, there is an increase in the angle of attack, which increases lift on the upwind wing, rolling the airplane downwind.


When the effects of these two factors are great enough, the upwind wing may rise even though directional control is maintained. If no correction is applied, it is possible for the downwind wing to strike the ground.


In the event a wing starts to rise during the landing roll, immediately apply more aileron pressure toward the high wing and continue to maintain direction.


The sooner the aileron control is applied, the more effective it will be.