View Full Version : The teaching of (or absence of) bounced landing recovery at flying schools

2nd Oct 2013, 11:06
12/5612 13.12.12 ZK-JES Fly Synthesis Storch S Dargaville Minor injury to pilot. Aircraft landed heavily, bounced, and overturned.

Thought I would open the subject for discussion. Over many years I have shared coffee and chats to old friends and acquaintances in the flying school fraternity. One of the subjects has been on recovery from bounced landings and whether it is better to recover from the bounce and re-land ahead. Or is it a generally safer option to simply open up and go around?

I don't know the facts of the above bounced landing or whether the pilot tried to recover from the bounce or he tried to go around. As it turned out, either way it was not the ideal ending:eek:

In the days when tail-wheel aircraft were the primary trainers at aero clubs ( Tiger Moths, Austers, Chipmunks and even RAAF Winjeels), bounced landings were probably more common than now with nose-wheel equipped types. Then, instructors placed great accent on the safe recovery from bounced landings and demonstrated the technique of applying a little power and jiggling the aircraft down from the top of the bounce into a smooth touchdown. Of course remaining field length had to be considered when making the instant decision to go-around or land further in.

I am sure every former student pilot will remember his instructor's sage advice just before sending his student on their first solo. It was usually something like "When in doubt, just go-around". Or it may have been "Break this aircraft and I'll break your neck" The latter advice was not particularly helpful...

With the advent of tricycle undercarriage training aircraft such as Cessna and Cherokee types, landings were easier and bounces generally fewer? But still we read of flying school aircraft or private pilots spiking the nosewheel into the deck, bouncing prettily and then finishing on their backs.

The impression I have gained from numerous conversations with flying instructors old and new, is that demonstrations of bounce recovery nowadays is rarely taught. Maybe talked about - but not demonstrated by the instructor to the student.

Keep in mind that a bounce and go-around with full flap hanging out in a Cessna can take a fair amount of flying skill. If the stall warning has sounded during the bounce, then it takes careful use of rudder to prevent the inevitable yaw as full throttle is applied and at the same time the nose rises under the influence of full power. Then there is the matter of raising the flaps at the right time (read the POH on that) and the change of trim that occurs with flap retraction.

A poorly controlled go-around after a bounced landing with low airspeed has all the potential for disaster. It is vital that instructors have the skill to demonstrate the bounced landing recovery with absolute confidence. That includes the technique for landing ahead from the bounce or a full blooded low speed go-around. I am not sure that those new instructors with barely 250 hours in their log books have this confidence... Why? Because they may not have been taught this on their instructor courses.

All students should have demonstrated to their instructors competency at both techniques before being sent solo. In turn, trainee instructors must have the skill to teach both techniques with confidence and skill.

It is inevitable that instructors have a little apprehension when sending their student for the first solo. Highly experienced instructors are not immune to this. A few years ago, I sent a female student pilot at Point Cook on her first solo which was in a Cessna 152. Conditions were ideal and the circuit area clear. I told her to take off and land into the south on the grass strip adjacent to Runway 17. The wind was calm and she had flown about nine hours dual and was well above average in all phases of her training.

Standing by the northern windsock I watched her circuit which seemed perfect. Base leg was nice to watch until she reached about 200 feet on final.

The nose of the Cessna came up into level flight but there was no change of engine noise and I could just imagine the airspeed falling back to 50 knots. In those cases you mutter to yourself "get the bloody nose down you stupid git" She came over the fence at about 80 feet with the nose well above the horizon and power at idle. I began to run towards where I thought she would bend it. She made an almighty round-out at 10-20 feet and I hoped right then she would not attempt a go-around at that attitude because she was surely on the point of stall.

There was a sudden application of power and then quite gently she had the Cessna easing slowly down until it landed very tail down on the grass. She did a 180 to taxi back and pick me up. As I walked to meet her there was this big smile from the cockpit. I made no comment on what the hell happened on short final as I didn't want to spoil her day with criticism

When I asked her to fly us back to Essendon from whence we had come to Point Cook she smiled sweetly and said "I hope I didn't scare you with that landing" "No problem" I said "so what happened". "The stall warning was sounding on late final (she said) and I didn't notice the airspeed, then when I went to flare I pulled back too hard. So I just put on a bit of power and it more or less landed itself. At least I didn't bounce. Why? Do you think I should have gone around?"

I was lost for words because I knew that under the circumstances that I saw, a low speed full flap go-around would have been much more tricky for someone on their first solo than a semi-controlled high flare and recovery and land ahead. Fortunately, I had spent a lot of time demonstrating, then allowing her to practice, how to recover and land ahead from high flare or a bounce. I guessed I picked that up from another era of flying the biggest tail dragger of the lot in Australia at the time - the old Lincoln bomber.

The above is not meant to be a warrie and I hope people reading this story don't feel that way. But it is hopefully a wake-up call to new instructors that there is no need to teach students to always go-around because of a bounce or high round-out. There may be a safer option...:ok:

2nd Oct 2013, 11:23
I always taught bounce to land, and bounce to go around before sending students solo. When I taught instructors I always included me bouncing as one of the common errors to get them to take over & to teach bounce recovery.

2nd Oct 2013, 11:29
Finally someone who shows some genuine interest in the quality of flight instruction. I am not qualified enough to make technical comment or engage in this discussion but I look forward to following it.

2nd Oct 2013, 20:18
I teach my students primarily to land the aircraft off a bounce, runway length permitting, but agree with the poster above that both landing ahead and going-around from a bounce need to be taught before solo. I find that inevitably at some point in a students pre-solo circuit training they will bounce the aircraft which creates the perfect opportunity to teach them how to recover. On the rare occasion that I have a student who I am intending to send solo who I actually haven't seen bounce the aircraft at some point I'll always at the very least question what they intend to do if it happens, on some occasions they don't have a clue!

Of course the very worst thing is to check forward, at least in a tricycle gear aeroplane, and I won't send someone solo if there's even the slightest tendency to do that, but I've also seen quite a few students who upon bouncing the aircraft simply maintain the same amount of control pressure and don't add power which results in ending up at 10ft above the runway with no airspeed and a high nose - also far from ideal!

I also conducted a solo check with a student relatively recently who was bouncing literally every second landing due to carrying a little bit much speed on final, but conducting a well controlled go-around without fail every time it happened. I elected to send this student solo and sure enough on the first attempt she came in a bit too fast and bounced, but conducted a go-around. The second landing was much better and at the end of the whole exercise her confidence had increased dramatically from the experience of actually having flown the aircraft by herself and so in subsequent lessons when I began to really start pushing for her to reduce her approach speed a bit more she started nailing the landings every time.

I consider myself generally fortunate that in my career so far I haven't yet witnessed an accident which resulted in serious injury or worse, but one I did witness a few years ago which I did not expect the student to be walking away from was a case of a bounced landing where the student simply did nothing and allowed the aircraft to stall at about 20ft with a resulted wingdrop and heavy nose-first crash beside the runway - the aircraft was written off. I don't know what if any instruction that student had had on bounce recovery but it certainly emphasised its importance to me.

2nd Oct 2013, 20:23
I approach circuit and landing training differently to "the norm". During the first sessions I place greatest emphasis on flying an accurate circuit with recognition and correction of too high/low/fast / slow on final and the correct flare. Until the trainee can flare and fly the aircraft along the runway at hold-off height I don't put any emphasis on the landing. This often results in the odd bounce - if it's a skip, then recover, if it's more than a skip then go-around. Once the trainee can do this to a reasonable standard the landing is almost a non-event and if the landing doesn't work they have the skills to correct or go around. I also get them considering actions in the event of partial / complete engine failures at various positions in the circuit quite early in their circuit training. Obviously the rate of introducing the various components will vary with the trainees capacity to take them on. The majority of my instruction is carried out in tailwheel aircraft (types such as Citabria, Champ, Chippy, J3 etc) however this technique works just as well in nosewheel types.

Luke SkyToddler
2nd Oct 2013, 22:31
This particular incident happened in a Storch which, to be fair to the pilot, is about as robust as a piece of toilet paper in a hurricane.

A lot of landing mishaps that would only result in a "medium bounce" in a robust old-school trainer like the C152 and PA38, are enough to destroy an ultralight. Another reason why so many schools still use the things even though they are approaching 40 and 50 years old :hmm:

2nd Oct 2013, 22:37
There is an Australian airline that has a cadet program.

In the event that the cadets can't successfully transition to the airline (generally handling & landing issues), what do you think they do with them?

That's right, they employ them as instructors.

Failed airline pilots, teaching future airline pilots.

And we wonder why these basics of handling and decision making are not being taught by flying instructors.

And CASA allow it!!!

2nd Oct 2013, 22:54
Ahhhh! I have personal experience of not being taught the recovery and/or go around technique in a Cessna. I taught myself - at the cost of $1500 insurance excess on a new firewall.

All I had been taught was "protect the nosewheel" by the method of never relaxing, let alone pushing forward on the yoke in a bounce situation.... The instructors seemed frightened about going anywhere near this subject

However nobody explained why.

Nobody explained how a bounce occurs either.

Nobody demonstrated one.

So little Sunfish gets his C172 endorsement to his new PPL at YMMB when it is blowing a steady Northerly headwind of around 20 knots. No problems, all looks good, signature in Log book.

A few days later Sunfish decides to practice his newfound mastery of the mighty C172 on a dead still day.

We proceed down final at 70 knots,,,,,, all the way to the runway and bounce.

This comes as a complete surprise, so I relax the back pressure and we continue to float...

So i push forward just a little and ... bounce.

And again till finally down.

After Three progressively worse landings caused by too much speed followed by pilot induced oscillation, even the Tower was alarmed and called me in, to be met by a deputation from school asking the question "who told you to do that?". The answer of course was nobody.

Half an hour later I was doing much better and of course landing Ten knots slower, however the firewall was slightly bent. My only consolation was when the FSA guys showed me Five more Cessnas from other schools with even worse firewall damage.

So yes by all means demonstrate some awful landings and the traps, then teach the recovery and go around.

2nd Oct 2013, 23:10
A lot of landing mishaps that would only result in a "medium bounce" in a robust old-school trainer like the C152 and PA38, are enough to destroy an ultralight. Another reason why so many schools still use the things even though they are approaching 40 and 50 years old

I think this is spot on,

The difficulty in recovery from a bounce or balloon is very dependant on the aircraft type. Some modern trainers are very particular about landing attitude and will easily either prop strike if eased forward or tail-strike if the flare is continued too far. It can become a bad habit as well to always fix a mistake with the approach by extending your landing distance, which may bite you at a different airfield. I prefer to teach students to go round if anything goes wrong during the approach/landing and have another go with thought on what went wrong.

As with NZFKiwi, I would sooner send a student solo with average landings but a solid go-round technique, than a student with good touchdowns but the tendency to push a landing when it's not suitable. With this in mind I've sent many solo with no incidents other than the odd go-round. One such occasion on a first solo I watched the student flare too high on first attempt, went around, second attempt flared a little too low, slight bounce, went around, third attempt landing almost perfect. The student came back in quite stressed and apologised for not landing the first one and I told him it was quite alright as the objective of the exercise is to return safely, not to land at all cost. After that he went back to being elated at his first solo.

2nd Oct 2013, 23:25
I was never taught bounce recovery by my flying school. Learned a few years later.

Met plenty of pilots since who've never been taught bounce recovery.


training wheels
3rd Oct 2013, 00:08
The irony is that if a student has very good bounce recovery skills, then he/she should then have the skills required to land safely without bouncing. This is because, IMHO, a bounce recovery and landing requires a higher level of motor skills than a normal landing due to the yaw created by adding additional power. Furthermore, during bounce recovery, the amount of power applied is also measured so that the aircraft descends and touches down again; if too much power is applied, then you have a situation where the aircraft may still be floating down the runway with diminishing landing distance available. So you may then end up in a situation where you have a failed attempted bounce recovery, whereby the aircraft has yawed to the left due to additional power, floating down the runway 10 ft above the surface, and with a 15 or so hour solo student at the controls, so it's no wonder not many flying schools teach this. IMHO, it's much easier to say to the student that if they stuff up the landing then just go around as all students have been taught to do this before they go solo.

3rd Oct 2013, 03:42
I say safer to teach go around. All you experienced pilots forget how difficult it was during those early hours without adding bounce recovery at such an early stage. Its so much easier to open up, check speed, climb away and retract flaps in stages and think about what went wrong while flying upwind than it is to trickle on just the right amount of power then juggling just the right amount of rudder to compensate all the while thinking about runway length and worrying because your using up much more runway than usual and if you will infact stop in time, not to mention its very unlikely that the student will still be on centre line, and all in a very short time a few feet from the runway.

Second to that you'd be teaching the student to press on with a landing when things dont look good.

The student will pick up the finer arts of flying down the track anyway.

Remember a PPL is a license to learn.

Big Pistons Forever
3rd Oct 2013, 04:05
Bent firewalls don't come form the initial hit nose wheel first, they come from the second or usually the third hit. This is the inevitable result of a too fast approach followed by a flat touchdown. The problem is not controlling the bouncing it is the fact that the approach was way wrong.

I teach if the airplane ricochets off the runway after a nose wheel first hit you go around and on the second approach you concentrate on getting the aircraft stabilized at the proper speed in trim and on a suitable flight path.

Unfortunately there seems to be a wide spread tendency of flight schools to specify a SOP of too fast approach speeds. I find this sad because in an attempt to make things "safer" they are actually making landing accidents more likely.

I have never had trouble with my students landing flat because I make a big deal about them not letting them touch down unless the aircraft is in the proper tail low landing attitude.


FWIW I have 2000 + hours of light aircraft instruction and another 5000 + hrs of less important, and much easier flying in aircraft like the DC6, CV 580 and L 188

dubbleyew eight
3rd Oct 2013, 05:47
where I learnt we would often land, climb to 50ft, land, climb to 50ft, land and repeat that along the runway for about 6 times then takeoff through the dirt overrun area at the end. (which had been walked to check for rabbit holes etc.)
I think the mastery of that sorted out the go around challenge quite well.

you would only be able to do that now on an airstrip away from controllers.

training wheels
3rd Oct 2013, 06:23
where I learnt we would often land, climb to 50ft, land, climb to 50ft, land and repeat that along the runway for about 6 times then takeoff through the dirt overrun area at the end.

They actually teach this in flight schools in a part of Asia. This is known as the 'cut airborne' exercise where, after becoming airborne to 50 feet, the instructor pulls the throttles to idle and the student attempts to land again. They can usually get two in, on a 1800 meter strip.

3rd Oct 2013, 06:58
Finally someone who shows some genuine interest in the quality of flight instruction.

It has also shown up the differing opinions of landing technique (bounced landing recovery) between presumably experienced flying instructors. And it shows up the world of difference in training between the airline world of training (highly standardised) and the general aviation world where there is no standardisation.

For example, RAAF flying instructors all have to be graduates of the Central Flying School at East Sale. Standard instructional procedures on the course means students at the other Service flying schools are also receiving standard CFS originated teaching sequences. Graduates of CFS were taught the correct method of bounce recovery which included either a go-around if a high severe bounce with plenty of airspeed in hand, or recovery and land ahead.

First solo is inevitably a nervous time for a student and the instructor. Several years back a highly experienced former Boeing 727 pilot retired and back on ab-initio instructing at Melton, Victoria sent a student on first solo in a C152. As mentioned somewhere on this thread his last words to the student before slamming the door and walking away was "When in doubt always go-around"

The nervous student (a Cathay Pacific flight engineer on 747's) went around on his first, second, third, fourth approach because he was too high in his opinion. In each case the approach was only slightly high and certainly not a go-around situation. His instructor began to get worried and told the student on the flying school radio to stop stuffing around and land the bloody thing next time.

This time the student came in real high, floated due excess speed, spiked the 152 with forward stick at the bounce and caused the 152 to go arse over head. The student was unhurt. He had taken his instructor's advice to heart. That was if in doubt go-around. Well he was in doubt on every approach...

Horatio Leafblower
4th Oct 2013, 12:53
I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the wording of the Day VFR Syllabus - which requires the recovery from a bounce WITHOUT ADDING POWER.

It is the most stupid thing I have read from CASA in a long time, it has been challenged many times, rubbished in ATO PDPs etc etc etc but never have they sought to review it.

Recovered from bounce with APRROPRIATE use of power might be better :ugh:

Clare Prop
4th Oct 2013, 13:17
Because it is something they need to be able to do if it is a forced landing without power. Anyone here who flies a glider can tell us how you recover from a bounce in a glider?

I advise against application of power in a bounce unless it is full power to go around, an instructor who decided he knew better told a student to do it in a Tomahawk against my advice, result just as I had said would happen, pitch up yaw left as per lesson one, a wingtip strike and then off to the left of the runway as the student slammed on FULL power. :mad::mad:

An aeroplane bounces because it has too much energy either potential or kinetic. So why add power ie MORE energy to the situation unless it is to go around?

4th Oct 2013, 14:08
Then, instructors placed great accent on the safe recovery from bounced landings and demonstrated the technique of applying a little power

Clare prop.
See above from the OP.

So why add power ie MORE energy to the situation unless it is to go around?

I think a little common sense needs to be applied here. Perhaps this extract from the current Boeing 737 Flight Crew Training Manual might help you understand things better: It applies equally to light aircraft.

"Bounced landing recovery - if the airplane should bounce, hold or re-establish a normal landing attitude and add thrust as necessary to control the rate of descent. Thrust need not be added for a shallow bounce or skip. When a hard high bounce occurs, initiate a go-around."

4th Oct 2013, 23:27
An aeroplane bounces because it has too much energy either potential or kinetic.Nope. Vertical velocity component at the instant a wheel or two or three touches the ground is the principal factor. Potential energy is height above the ground at a point in time so irrelevant. Kinetic energy is a factor in the behaviour during the bounce but more of a factor in a balloon.

So why add power ie MORE energy to the situation unless it is to go around?In a tailwheel airplane a bounce is nose up so the higher it goes with a very quick loss of airspeed - not much time to think about it before something nasty happens.

5th Oct 2013, 04:00
Try and land a 180/185 after a bounce without power... Thought it's a pretty basic technique? Obviously if you're short fielding into a paddock or small strip you haven't got that option, but as far as learning to recover a bounce, power is definitely the way to go.

Clare Prop
5th Oct 2013, 07:29
'Fraid I've only got 10,000+ hours instructing in light aircraft, never flown the 737, never wanted to.

I learn from experience not form what I read or what other people tell me their instructors told them.

You need to be able to recover from a bounce without power in case you have no power.

5th Oct 2013, 08:38
I'm also for the use of 'appropriate' power - having seen some amazing crashes due to freezing on the throttle and hoping full back stick will save the day. It might for a small bounce of a couple metres, but the 180/185 type bounce, (= a 'big red' effort), needs really co-ordinated recovery.
happy days,

Charlie Foxtrot India
5th Oct 2013, 09:57
Horatio, your comment

"I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the wording of the Day VFR Syllabus - which requires the recovery from a bounce WITHOUT ADDING POWER."

requires context.

It is in the unit A5.5 "Execute short take-off and landing" and says

"Controls ballooning during flare and bouncing after touchdown by adjustment of attitude without the application of power"

if they can't do that then the student is "not yet competent" in Unit A5.5, and you should refer to A4.3 "Perform mishandled landing procedures" ie "recognises when the landing standard cannot be achieved and implements a decision to perform mishandled landing (13)."

(13) refers to footnote "means to recognise an abnormal landing and recover the aircraft to controlled flight. often associated with a go-around".

Horatio Leafblower
5th Oct 2013, 10:17

Actually it is repeated in A4.1 "Land Aeroplane":

Controls ballooning during flare and bouncing after touchdown by adjustment of attitude without the application of power

...and again in A4.2 "Land aeroplane in crosswind":

Controls ballooning during flare and bouncing after touchdown by adjustment of attitude without the application of power

A landing can be stuffed up and safely recovered with the appropriate use of power - which might be no power, or full power, or points in between.

I would rather see a student stuff it up in a test, and safely and competently recover, than perform perfectly. It is their assessment of the situation and the application of appropriate and safe recovery measures that properly demonstrates their competence.

I agree that recovering a bounce without power is important, but blindly trying to recover without power in a situation that demands it (because you are trying to satisfy words in a CASA document) is folly.

5th Oct 2013, 20:59
OK, you asked what glider pilots do for a bounced landing. I instruct on power (Dr400) and gliders, and fly a Cub for fun. In most glider landings we will be using airbrake, which will reduce to performançe from around 35 to 1 glide angle to about 10 to 1. So closing the airbrake will have much the same effect as partially opening the throttle. The basic teaching is to reduce the airbrake, and hold the stick where it is until the glider starts to descend again. At this point, without changing the airbrake setting, round out again, and hold off as usual. Once on the ground, go to full airbrake, wheel brake as required. Generally speaking, most training gliders have fairly benign handling, and not too much tendency to bounce, but we do look for a fully held off landing.

Some single seaters are happier with a more "flown on" style of landing, as are one or two high performance two seaters, but this is usually due to reduced aileron authority with flaps in landing settings. Generally speaking, a glider will be more akin to a power taildragger than a nosewheel type. However, most students will be solo after about eight hours and forty or so landings, assuming a reasonable amount of soaring in the early stages of training. Say about five or six flights between 30 minutes and an hour, then a number of shorter flights while learning circuit planning, aerotow launching, and landings. Winch trained pilots on a flat site typically have fewer hours to solo,but more landings, due to (usually) shorter flights.