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#172 The Dreaded Bounce

You’ve made just one mistake.  It doesn’t matter whether you were doing a “Wheelie” or a “Three-Point” landing.  That one mistake was to create a bounce.  The airplane either came down a bit too fast with not enough plant during a Wheelie or it touched before stalling in the three point, or “Kerplop” landing.  Now you have to deal with the resultant bounce.  There are usual methods of dealing with this situation.  One is to use alternating up and down elevator to chase the bounce.  That almost always results in “pilot induced oscillation” or PIO.  Hmmm, that’s really not a good idea.  The other method is to simply apply power and go around.  That’s the method that a lot of instructors and experienced pilots prefer (Acme is really into this one).  Cue the villagers with their pitchforks and torches because I think that solution sucks.  I’m against most go arounds that occur after touchdown.  I say, “let’s fix it right now and continue with the landing”.

There are basically three methods of dealing with a bounce.  They all have the same problem, in that the decision of how to deal with the bounce must be made in a fraction of a second.

The first method is to change the desired type of landing. If you’ve tried a wheelie and encountered a bounce, you can simply keep the airplane in the landing window and turn it into a three point.  That works lots of times.  If you can act fast

Wonder why this is a picture of Cindy’s hand? That’s because the first two methods of dealing with a bounce really depend mostly on elevator. Notice the light touch… as it should be.

enough and if the airplane is descending slow enough, you can use the second method by simply applying forward elevator when it touches next and make the next attempt work without a bounce. I can’t tell you how many of these “second time’s a charm” touchdowns I’ve used.  And I’m sure I haven’t made my last one!

The third method is perhaps the most popular.  Its disadvantage is that it will increase the amount of runway required, so there is always the risk of running out of runway.  It is the addition of power.  That’s one of the reasons that most flight instructors insist that the pilot keep a hand on the throttle.  Although I am one of those teachers, I really don’t

Hand on the throttle. That’ll make it just that much quicker to apply power for a go-around. Some instructors really stress this… I’m in the process of changing my attitude about it.

care for this method.  To me, it relies on something which may not always be available and creates a bad habit.  But if you must….  Power will preserve flying speed and make it possible to touch again.  It will also make it possible to go around.  Hmmm, after a touch?  I don’t know that it’s a good idea, although situations vary.

So there you have it, three ways to deal with the dreaded bounce:  Turn a wheelie into a three-point, use the excess speed to touch once more and use power to either preserve the altitude you have or go around.  All of these methods require split-second decision-making and that may be what makes the bounce so dreaded!

Now go out there and practice some bounces!  For those who tend to experience the dreaded bounce, I have begun to create that bounce for them, then fold my arms and let them deal with it.

Happy Swooping (and bouncing!)


4 comments to #172 The Dreaded Bounce

  • Bar Eisenhauer

    RIGHT ON BRIAN!! Great words to live by. It’s that split second that keeps us sharp while staying relaxed. Here on our little less than 3000′ rolling runway of “it comes to meet you, now it leaves you, no wait! it left me again,” life gets very interesting every day and there are no two alike if we add in our strange wind factor.between trees and hangars. Not to mention the passengers, opps I just did. Anyway, thank you for refreshing my training and memory. Bar

  • Dan Newman

    You describe recovering from a wheelie bounce. What about the three point bounce? My limited experience has been a three point bounce leaves you high and slow, so if you don’t add power the only landing will be a HARD one. Realistically your only options are go-around or add a touch of power to arrest your relatively fast descent rate and try another three point.

    Any thoughts on the bounced three pointer?

    • brian

      Opinion: Make a faster approach so that you spend more time in the flare and maintaining that closeness to the runway while holding it off. If you practice that for a while, you won’t bounce. The bounce in a three-point is almost always caused by impacting the runway or ground BEFORE the stall is achieved (its in my book). Make sure that the stick is ALL THE WAY BACK by the time the wheels touch and you will have a good result. If that doesn’t work, come to Tailwheel Town! Thanks!

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