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Bouncy/Porpoise Landings

This post is to share some experience/incident and hopefully learn from others here, how avoid such happenings and most importantly overcome aftereffects.

Background : I am freshly minted PPL with ca 70 hours (around 5-10 hours after license). Fairly confident at the same time cautious, have flown only in good weather conditions so far and short well prepared trips. As most of you here, I am keen to take friends and family with me. So far my mom, some relatives and friends have been with me (Only on the 2 seater Aquila where I have most experience).

Incident : Last weekend, I had some friends visiting me and weather permitting we decided to fly. I planned two sessions, one with my friend and his wife each last 40-50 mins. The plan was to approach the alps and if possible enter the region through valleys. Then go on a scenic x-country route back to base. The first session went very well, I flew at 5500ft and decided not to enter valley since we had winds upto 20kts with changing directions. For the second leg, I noticed that I was short on fuel and decided to make it more interesting from my passenger by landing at another place to fuel. This was a grass runway, where I have been many times before and know the geography well.

I seemed to have underestimated impact of change in plans, found it bit difficult orient myself at the new airport. There was a lot of activity there with all possible stuff going on like sail planes, para-jumping in addition to motorized craft. I had to fly-by once to get oriented, then got into downwind with one more plane ahead of me and one in base. Did all things as per book, while turning downwind to base, got distracted by previous aircraft making full stop as opposed to touch’n go. I might have turned tad bit early. In final, missed my usual markers (since I have been here before, I have some mental notes) but still decided to land. Overshot the touch down point by a good margin, got bumped twice…decided to go around! So far so good. There is perpendicular village road at the end of the runway and then basically obstacles in form of trees!!! Traffic Pattern is right, I felt I did not have enough height to turn right and found some gaps in tree tops to the left and hence turned left. I was aware of no-fly marked zones on the left (built up areas), but I felt this was my best chance to continue to gain speed, without losing height. Controller was irritated but very supportive, held back traffic while I sorted myself out. Decided to fly back and not make any more attempts.

Aftereffects: Made a quick flight back, made a clean landing(probably my best so far). Checked for damage on aircraft but luckily nothing apart from grass and dead insects. Spoke to controller at my base if I have to call the previous airport or make some sort of report but he said such things are common occurrence and I should just relax and may be put in more practice on grass landings. Fuel indicators showed 1/4 in each tank but was practically empty when measured with dipstick! I am still trying to understand how this can happen (not just instrumentation, but also my computation!!!).

Just feeling the weight of things that has happened. Lucky to survive on more than on count – porpoise landing and low fuel. Took me more than 2 days to write this up.
- I have identified change in plans and corresponding planning gaps. But these can occur under different circumstances (ad-hoc) as well. How does one prepare for such things?
- Violation of traffic pattern, how serious is this? Do I need to inform somebody or expect a action from concerned authorities?
- Emotionally how does one come to terms with this. Does one force oneself back to replaying this immediately, or take a break?

Thank you for reading so far. Feels good to share it, somehow online forums seem to be the perfect foil to express this openly.

Germany

Two big “red flags” go up for me reading your report. The rest is probably normal learning post PPL.

The two “red flags” are:

1. “Noticing” that you are low on fuel during a flight
2. Having decided that the fuel situation was serious enough to divert for fuel, you decide to fly back to base because of the botched landing.

You should never ever, ever, ever, ever take chances with fuel. You must always know how much fuel you have onboard, how much fuel you’ll need for the flight and how much reserve you have. You must always monitor the fuel situation and particularly reassess it whenever something happens that causes you to change from your planned flight.

A low fuel situation is not something that you should ever “notice”, but rather something that you anticipate as getting increasingly critical and you know the likelihood of having to divert for fuel is increasing and you’re assessing your options before you decide to divert. Finding that you have to divert for fuel on a 40-50 minute flight suggests that your flight planning AND flight monitoring needs improvement.

The botched landing and go around obviously spooked you. That’s understandable giving your level of experience. But I find it concerning that you thought it acceptable to land there first time, and necessary to land there for fuel, but now decided to divert to your home base, when you initially thought you were too tight on fuel to make it there safely. Again, you should never ever, ever, ever, ever take chances with fuel. If you didn’t have enough to get back to base safely, you shouldn’t be trying to fly back there.

Hopefully those are lessons that you’ve learnt, and you’ll never make those mistakes again.

The other items, I think are probably things you can put down to experience. Cutting the circuit too tight, getting too fast on final, bouncing, getting nervous about the go-around, flying the wrong circuit, are probably mistakes that we’ve all made. Everyone of us has cut a circuit too tight. Everyone one of us has got the speed wrong, bounced the aircraft, got nervous on a go-around or flown the wrong circuit. For most of us these happen shortly after our PPL when we’re less experienced, but they come back to bite every pilot of all experiences on occasion.

The best thing to learn is to “plan your flight and then fly the plan”.

Reading between the lines, I wonder if your fuel situation wasn’t really that critical, and if you decided on the spur of the moment to divert to “make the flight more interesting?” Changing the plan isn’t something that you should do unless necessary. By all means plan a flight with the possibility of diverting somewhere else also being planned. In that case, you’ve everything briefed, and you know what you’re doing.

But if you change the plan while in the air, things get busy quickly. You’re checking frequencies, sorting out circuits, runway directions etc.

In my experience most pilot mistakes happen when they decide to leave their original plan and do something unplanned (whether this is on the spur of the moment or forced by weather or mechanical issue).

As your experience grows, you’ll learn to give yourself more room in an unfamiliar circuit, especially so if the landing was unplanned. With more experience you’re less likely to get the speed wrong (also helped by giving yourself more room in the circuit!). You’ll also learn to handle go-arounds better, making the decision earlier so that obstacles aren’t an issue. I wouldn’t worry too much about these, so long as you learn from them.

The big lesson here is you should never ever, ever, ever, ever take chances with fuel.

Remember pilots make mistakes and accidents happen. When they do, they are generally looked at sympathetically as human error with the opportunity to learn from. Running out of fuel though is an exception and is generally not looked on sympathetically by others!

I wouldn’t worry about departing the circuit. You had good reason to do so, and there is very unlikely to be any follow up to that.

I don’t see any reason to take a break from flying. Just make sure to plan your flights better in the future. We’ve all made mistakes. The key is to learn from them, and it looks like you are seeking to do that!

EIWT Weston

Dublin Pilot speaks wise words. Always know or have a reasonable estimate of fuel available. I recall a flight when I had much less experience and on a flight back from Paris to Amsterdam diverted to drop someone off at Lelystad. Not too much out of the way, maybe 70kms. Time was short so I did not wait for fuel. The 15 minutes from Lelystad to Schiphol were extremely uncomfortable after I checked the guages when airborne. Turned out of course that there was sufficient fuel but ever since then I have been a bit anal on the subject and will always refuel if I have a chance.

Landings – I am sure we have all botched a few. Concentrating on airspeed on final helps me a lot but then again I will never forget the landing which was set to be an absolute greaser and ended up with the plane leaving the runway.

EHLE / Lelystad, Netherlands, Netherlands

acquilinus wrote:

decided to make it more interesting from my passenger by landing at another place to fuel.
As PIC you are responsible for safety first. Sightseeing and interesting stuff come later.
Did all things as per book, while turning downwind to base, got distracted by previous aircraft making full stop as opposed to touch’n go. I might have turned tad bit early.
When there is a crowd in the pattern, try to identify what plane-type you are flying behind, and try to match its speed as soon as possible, or adapt your turns to create a gap if you can’t slow down enough. Among the oddities, I was once asked by ATC to do a 270 degree turn from base to final so the liner on the RWY would have time to take-off.
In final, missed my usual markers (since I have been here before, I have some mental notes) but still decided to land.
You should always be ready to go around,! and go around as soon as you are outside of your tolerances. One of my instructors used to say that every full-stop landing is an aborted go around.
Overshot the touch down point by a good margin, got bumped twice…obstacles in form of trees… found some gaps in tree tops to the left
On top of a the touch down point, you must have a go around point. Especially on short fields where energy management is crucial. A climb at Vy or Vx hanging off the prop is not always the best answer. Don’t put yourself in this situation where you need to “find a gap between tree-tops”.
Fuel indicators showed 1/4 in each tank but was practically empty when measured with dipstick
Fuel indicators are probably the least reliable gauges in a plane. I don’t know how your dipstick was calibrated, but I have seen some (bought ones actually) that were not reliable at the lower end. In your calculations, check your climb and descent profiles on the day’s DA. Don’t forget to lean, including in the climb. When doing several times the same tour with different people, I find it easy to overlook items on the second and third pass, so it’s important to brief and monitor the subsequent flights the same way as the first. Including checking fuel and oil before starting, did I consume what I had planned on the previous leg? do I have enough for the next? Fuel in the tanks and oil in the engine are what keeps you flying, the rest is accessory.
How does one prepare for such things?
I don’t have a better advice than to always be ready. On the ground before take-off by reviewing the fields along your route. In the air, your engine might decide to throw a conrod this next second, what do you do? where do you go? where is the wind coming from? what field do you pick? etc etc…
Violation of traffic pattern, how serious is this?
Some countries are very tough on noise-abatment zones, and some people in said zones are anal about reporting intrusions. You found this incident (Low on fuel, long land, bump x2, go around through the trees) serious enough to ask for advice here, it’s probably worth an incident report to your CAA. Incident reports are not there for prosecution, they’re most valuable to them from a prevention and training point of view.
Emotionally how does one come to terms with this. Does one force oneself back to replaying this immediately, or take a break?
It’s not your first mistake, nor your last. The important part is to learn from it, but don’t let it “freeze” you. Taking an extended break will not improve your proficiency, especially at very low time. Review the situation with your instructor, if needed take an extra hour with him/her.

Last Edited by Arne at 09 Oct 17:06
ESMK, Sweden

Bounced landings can end really bad. Recent example shows….



The 2nd airplane on approach, an AN30, obviously came in fast and unstabilized and the crew tried to put it down, with partly horriffic control inputs. That the plane did not break up before it hit the preceeding AN26 shows just how these Antonovs are built… I don’t think any of our small planes would have survived continuous nose gear touch downs without at least loosing the gear.

So bouncing is something which happens. But if it does, there are not many options. The first is almost always right: Immediately set full power around. The 2nd one is to recover the landing on a long runway by keeping the pitch up and letting the speed come down so the 2nd arrival is as it is supposed to be. This can be tricky, as overcorrecting in both ways pitch up or down can cause damage, either to the front (nosegear , propeller) or a tailstrike if pitch is kept too high.

Both methods however have one thing in common: Pitch should never go below neutral or even a few degrees up. Bouncing is almost always the result of a too fast touch down followed by an instinctive reaction to “correct” the flight path by pitching down. The latter is what causes trouble.

Mooneys are well known for fast landings and their consequences, quite a few of them have had prop strikes as a consequence. The answer is speed control. If a situation arises where speed is slightly high, then a prolonged flare with a constant landing pitch can save the situation if the runway is long enough. Otherwise, it is a clear go around at the gate.

LSZH, Switzerland

The best thing you’ve done is to write about it here and seek advice.
Personally I think the emotional mindset of a pilot is an unusual one and must be acquired with experience.
In life we are emotionally programmed (rightly or wrongly, that’s a different discussion) to be berated or admonished for our mistakes or transgressions.
In the flying world it rarely happens (in an official sense at least, one can’t forget the keyboard warriors) and once you get used to that notion then your confidence grows.
Mistakes are finite in number. Every one you commit gets you closer to perfection!

Forever learning
EGTB

Great that you posted, safe flying is about avoiding a blame culture and analysing incidents to gain insights.

While I agree better fuel planning would have meant you were more relaxed when you decided to visit another airfield which you hadn’t planned for, and perhaps you would have taken a bit more time to study activity in the traffic pattern from the overhead, I think the other important lesson is that you need to be confident in carrying out a go around decision at an earlier point. Going around and re positioning when things don’t feel right is a sign of good airmanship, not of an inexperienced pilot.

Some airline SOPs brief the go around at different gates in the approach, so the flight crew are primed to go around, only continuing when they are satisfied the checks and parameters at that gate have been satisfied. The go around decision is not just at minima, but at different phases.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

A topic for ILAFFT perhaps?

Thanks for sharing. It’s good that you recapitulate and take your experience seriously. To me it seems nothing dramatic happened and some others might not even think about it at all (especially the wrong traffic pattern: what use is a correct flown pattern if you collide with a tree because of ambient conditions etc…?).
You are the pilot in command and whenever your best judgement leads you to a safer course of action you do it. This also goes for ATC – if you are unable/unhappy be friendly but determined.
Flying is very dynamic BUT usually the more you’ve prepared the less you’ll need it :)
If there’s too much traffic in the pattern and you feel rushed – break away, fly some 360’s somewhere to settle and then try again.
I don’t understand the fuel scenario. You wanted to land and fuel up but then didn’t. Try and find the answer to this one for yourself.
Botched go arounds (low speed, forgetting to raise flaps etc..) happen frequently.
Brief your go around drill (go around power, flaps, positive rate, gear, speed etc..) for every approach, consider going around assured every time and consider landings as optional.
Don’t get stressed out too much. Everybody makes mistakes all the time. If you don’t, you just didn’t catch them ;).

LOWG Graz Austria

RobertL18C wrote:

Some airline SOPs brief the go around at different gates in the approach, so the flight crew are primed to go around, only continuing when they are satisfied the checks and parameters at that gate have been satisfied. The go around decision is not just at minima, but at different phases.

This.
A few years ago the flight data monitoring at a large european major carrier revealed that only a single digit percentage of go arounds was flown correctly.

Emphasis was put on training and as mentioned by Robert it is now part of the briefing to not only brief the missed approach procedure (routing) but also all actions from calling “Go Around” to “After take off checklist”. It’s a trigger word and if anybody in the cockpit calls for “go around” the drill is performed, questions and discussion occur later at the hotel while having some apple juice.

LOWG Graz Austria

It can happen with many hours under your belt. I have several hundred hours in AA5 aircraft and am always extra gentle with the nose gear. Recently I did what I thought was a textbook x-wind landing – right main, left main, then let the nose down. And it bounced. Twice. Power in, go-around. Having been recently used to flying a larger aircraft, I probably “put” the nose down, rather than holding it off and allowing it to settle. Next landing was better, and I felt chastened. ILAFFT.

NeilC
EGPT, FAKN
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