At some point, a balloon on landing happens to all of us. Here’s what you can do to make a safe landing after happens to you.
How A Balloon Happens
When you misjudge your sink rate during landing and think the airplane is descending too fast, you have a natural reaction to sharply increase pitch attitude. If you make this mistake (and we all have at some point), you’ll not only stop your descent, you’ll actually initiate a climb during your flare.
This is called ballooning. It’s hazardous, because your height above the ground increases as your airplane approaches a stalled condition (increasing AOA and depleting speed). The severity of a balloon depends on your airspeed and how quickly pitch attitude is increased.
How To Recover
In many cases, a slight balloon can be recovered by gently relaxing back pressure on the yoke/stick while still maintaining a nose-high pitch attitude, descending into a second flare, and touching down. You may have to use a slight amount of power to cushion the landing. This prevents the airplane from decelerating too rapidly and touching down hard.
Remember, though, that you need to close the throttle right after touchdown. There’s another consideration too. When you apply power to recover from a balloon, you also create torque. You might need a little more right-rudder pressure to keep the airplane aligned with the centerline for touchdown.
If your balloon is excessive, you should execute a go-around immediately. Unfortunately, there are no specific criteria for this other than your judgment based on the landing experience you have. If you feel like your balloon is excessive, or that your airspeed is rapidly decaying, apply full power and perform a go-around before you enter a stalled condition.
Ballooning During A Crosswind Landing
If you’re flying a crosswind landing, you have to be cautious. During the recovery from a balloon, many pilots have a tendency to relax their crosswind input. Since you’re now at a lower airspeed, crosswind affects your airplane more because your flight controls are less effective at slower speeds.
The upwind wing must be lowered even further to compensate for drift, and you need more right rudder to stay aligned with the centerline. It’s crucial to maintain directional control with opposite rudder. If you start to drift, execute an immediate go-around.
Want A Visual?
If you have a large balloon and you don’t recover properly, it can lead to a hard touchdown like this:
What’s your strategy to deal with ballooning? Tell us in the comments below.
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