What Happens When Aircraft Float Down a Runway?

While floating down a runway may not sound like a problem, it is for pilots and aircrew alike. Whether you are a pilot with years of experience or a rookie flier, floating down past your touchdown point is a problem all pilots face at some time or another. In this blog, we will be providing a brief overview of what floating down the runway entails, how to prevent it, and how to stop it if you find yourself in this predicament.

To mitigate the possibility of floating down a runway, you must have a good flying pattern. Following traffic patterns at recommended airspeeds as outlined in your aircraft pilot’s operating handbook (POH) is a great place to start. While the POH does not provide guidance for airspeeds on downwind flights, it is important to note that when you turn onto your base leg, you should always fallback to a speed of 1.4xVso. For example, in a Cessna 172S, Vso is 40 knots, meaning that the recommended airspeed should be 1.4x40 knots. However, how do flight patterns prevent floating?

While the base leg speed will not directly affect floating, it does provide an opportunity for a more stabilized approach, allowing pilots to land safely. There are many reasons why aircraft approach may become destabilized, some of which include not tracking the centerline properly or flying too low, high, fast, or slow. As you begin to approach your final turn before landing, you should ask yourself if your aircraft is stable. If you need to constantly change throttle settings to adjust for altitude and airspeed, you should consider reapproaching your landing flight pattern.

Flying too fast can cause a number of problems beyond floating, posing a danger to the flight crew and passengers alike. In fact, flying at high speeds is a common cause for floated landings. When you round out and flare, excessive airspeeds prevent your aircraft from settling because you are flying above its stall speed. More than that, excess airspeed can result in bouncing, ballooning, porpoising, and propeller strikes. To mitigate the possibility of such occurrences, review the recommended final approach speeds for your specific aircraft.

It is important to note that final approach speed is not the same as threshold crossing speed. Upon determining that you can safely approach the runway, slowly reduce the throttle. When you transition to a round out and flare, continuously decelerate to a few knots above stall speed prior to approaching the ground. In the case that there are strong winds, aircraft automatically fly at high speeds. As such, pilots should also include  the gust factor in their final approach. Alternatively, ATC can be used to help guide pilots in their final approach. 

When you get close to the ground, downwash, wingtip vortices, and induced drag are reduced, all of which affect an aircraft’s total float. With less drag, bleeding off any number of knots can take a long time, producing a lengthy float down the runway when decelerating. Another common issue that may cause aircraft to float down is whether you are flying light or heavy. Lighter-than-normal aircraft necessitate less lift for flight, lowering the stall speed. When POH speed is used on final, round out, and flare, aircraft may experience extra float due to the low stall speed.

As previously mentioned, wind has an incredible effect on aircraft. If there are strong headwinds and your final approach is fast, the aircraft will float for the same amount of time as it would if there was no wind present. However, with a lower ground speed as a result of the headwinds, the aircraft will not float as far down the runway. In contrast, tailwind landings have the ability to increase an aircraft’s landing distance; thus, flying too fast will increase the landing distance upon approach.

To baffle runway landing, you can begin by employing a few different methods. Pilots should first attempt to go-around, allowing them to stabilize their approach. Your go-around approach should begin with a reference point that you plan to reach before you cross the threshold. You can also make sure that you flare slowly and smoothly. Additionally, you must not focus too much attention on your touchdown point as this may result in a hard landing.

Aircraft necessitate a number of parts and components for standard aviation operations, all of which should be sourced from a reputable distributor. If you find yourself in need of such items or others necessary for floating down runway procedures, rely on Sourcing Streamlined. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, Sourcing Streamlined is your go-to sourcing solution for aviation components, IT hardware, computer memory parts, and more. Kickoff the procurement process with a quote for your comparisons and see how Sourcing Streamlined can serve as your strategic sourcing partner.


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April 22, 2021

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