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How To Correct A Late Or Rapid Flare During Landing

You just crossed the runway threshold, and the runway's width suddenly fills your windscreen faster than you anticipated. You quickly pull back on the control yoke, feel the airplane stall, and slam onto the runway...

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When Does A Late/Rapid Flare Happen?

Your natural reaction to an unanticipated low altitude above the runway is to apply excessive back pressure to prevent touching down early or landing hard.

So why do late flars happen? Often times it's the result of not focusing your eyes far enough down the runway during the roundout and flare, but it can also be caused by the illusion of a narrower-than-usual runway.

If you're surprised by a late flare, one of three situations typically happens: a balloon, a hard landing, or a nosewheel-first landing. Let's look at each one in detail...

Ballooning Without Touchdown

If you pull back on the yoke abruptly, you might escape the hard touchdown you were trying to avoid. But you'll likely put yourself into a balloon as a result.

During a balloon, as the airplane begins climbing away from the runway, your airspeed continues to dissipate. This puts you close to stall speed, as you continue increasing your distance from the pavement.

So what should you do to fix it? If the balloon is small, use a slight increase in power to reduce your sink rate, and touch down on the runway. But if the balloon is large, add full power and go around. Correcting a large balloon is difficult, and it's safer to simply go around and try again.

Hard Landing

If you apply back pressure too rapidly in a late flare, your angle-of-attack can quickly exceed the critical angle-of-attack. The result? A stall and hard landing.

So what should you do in this situation? There isn't much time to react, however, adding power is the key. Like the balloon, if you have enough time, adding a small amount of power will help arrest your descent rate. However, if you're rapidly approaching the runway, adding full power and going around is, again, the best option.

Keep in mind that you might touch down on the runway during your go-around. Keep your power in, enter the pattern, and try again.

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Nosewheel-First Impact And Porpoise

Let's say you don't flare at all. If you don't do anything, or your reaction is extremely late, you will likely touch down on the nosewheel first. If you do bounce back into the air (which is likely), don't force the plane back down to the runway. Execute an immediate go-around to prevent porpoising and a potential prop strike or nosewheel collapse.

Should You Recover Or Go-Around?

The key to recovery from a late/rapid flare is the swift application of power.

While there are many cases where a slight increase in power can slow your descent rate for a smoother landing, in most cases, an immediate go-around is a much safer alternative.

Preventing The Late Flare

As they say, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So how do you prevent a late flare in the first place? Learn more about how to time your flare, and what visual cues you should look for here.

Take The Next Step...

Do you have a perfect takeoff and landing every time? Neither do we. That's why we built our Mastering Takeoffs and Landings online course.

You'll learn strategies, tactics and fundamental principles that you can use on your next flight, and just about any takeoff or landing scenario you could imagine. Even better, the course is full of tools you can come back to throughout your flying career.


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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