We've all done it. You apply back pressure and start your flare. The runway below you appears abnormally far away and you're decelerating quickly. This is going to be a rough touchdown...or worse yet, a low altitude stall.
Besides going around, is there anything else you can do?
When Do High Roundouts/Flares Happen?
Judging your height above the runway is tough. Finding the perfect spot to flare isn't an exact science, but there are some things you can do if you don't get it quite right. When you're crossing over the threshold of the runway, if you transition your focus from the aiming point to the horizon too soon, you'll likely flare too high.
A high flare can also be caused by visual illusions like a wider-than-normal runway.
You've probably gotten that sinking feeling a few times when you realize that you're too high, decelerating quickly, and approaching a stall. It feels as if your airplane is hanging in level flight well above the runway.
In most cases, going around is your best option. However, there are a few things you can do to quickly correct the situation and land safely. Here's what you can do to correct your high flare...
Hold Your Pitch Attitude Constant
During a high flare, your airplane is too far above the runway with a relatively high angle-of-attack (AOA). The first thing you should do is stop making the situation worse. Avoid adding any additional back pressure. This will only continue the flare at the exact same height above the runway. If you continue holding your airplane at the same altitude, you might stall or experience a hard landing.
As you continue the landing, hold a slightly nose-high pitch attitude, and don't push forward on the yoke/stick. If you push forward, you could develop an excessive descent rate, and possibly even touch down nose-first.
You might be able to relax some back pressure during the initial phase of your recovery, but this typically only applies if your airplane is climbing slightly (ballooning), or you just added too much back pressure the first time. Do your best to keep your pitch attitude constant.
As the airplane decelerates, it will begin a slow descent towards the runway. Start adding back pressure for a second (and hopefully final) flare, and establish your normal landing attitude.
And finally, if your descent rate is slightly high, add a small amount of power to arrest your descent for a smooth touchdown.
What Does The FAA Have To Say?
The FAA covers faulty approaches and landings in Chapter 8 of the Airplane Flying Handbook. Here's what they have to say:
During a high roundout, continuing the round out further reduces the airspeed and increases the AOA to the critical angle. This results in the airplane stalling and dropping hard onto the runway. To prevent this, the pitch attitude is held constant until the airplane decelerates enough to again start descending. Then the round out is continued to establish the proper landing attitude. This procedure is only used when there is adequate airspeed. It may be necessary to add a slight amount of power to keep the airspeed from decreasing excessively and to avoid losing lift too rapidly.
Although back-elevator pressure may be relaxed slightly, the nose should not be lowered to make the airplane descend when fairly close to the runway unless some power is added momentarily. The momentary decrease in lift that results from lowering the nose and decreasing the AOA might cause the airplane to contact the ground with the nose wheel first and result in the nose wheel collapsing.
When In Doubt, Go-Around
Again, if the nose must be lowered significantly or you're just not sure that you can pull the landing off, execute an immediate go around. Once you're safely back to the traffic pattern for another try, think about what went wrong on your first approach and make necessary adjustments. Was the high flare due to the visual illusion of the runway width, or was it something else?