Balked Landing–Worth the Practice

Not yet a balked landing possibility, but getting close.Every year during simulator training I know a balked landing is on the list of tasks to accomplish. And if I’m training in a jet, the maneuver will almost certainly come at the end of a low weather instrument approach with one engine failed.

I don’t know of an official definition of a balked landing that makes it different from a go-around. The way the balked landing term is generally used is that the actual landing procedure has begun and must be aborted. A go-around generally begins at a higher altitude and lacks the urgency of the balked landing.

So, to me a missed approach at the typical ILS decision height of 200 feet agl is a go-around. There is still plenty of energy available to get the power in, raise the nose and bring the gear up when climb is established. On many airplanes flaps are immediately raised from landing position to approach as soon as you start the go-around.

But a balked landing begins after you have begun to adjust the sink rate, and probably the power in preparation for the landing flare. Of course, in the extreme balked landing case you are in the flare and the power is coming back. Usually those happen in the simulator when a truck or other airplane taxies onto the runway right in front of you.

The reason to practice balked landings is that, I’m happy to say, the need to perform one in normal flying is pretty rare. Other than for practice, I can’t say that I have ever made a balked landing for real. But the situation can and does occur, and when it happens for real it will come as a surprise and there will be no time for review.

I can’t say one reaction is more important than the other, but to stop sinking and start climbing you need to pitch up and add power. Adding power and waiting on the pitch will keep you going down, but pitching up without all available power is going to bleed airspeed off like crazy. The two reactions must be as close as possible to simultaneous. If you’re in a turbine airplane it will take a few seconds to get the full power response, but you still have to get the nose up to halt the descent.

In some airplanes the problem will be keeping the nose from pitching too far up when the power comes in. Two airplanes that come to mind that may be a handful are the Mooney and Cessna 182. In both airplanes trimmed for landing approach with full flaps, a big boost of power is going to raise the nose and you will find yourself pushing hard to maintain the desired attitude until you can retrim. None of us can push away from our body one-handed with the same authority as we can pull so you may need to get that other hand off the throttle and onto the wheel.

In most airplanes flap position during a balked landing is more important than extended landing gear. If the wing flaps are very large and effective for landing, they are probably going to reduce climb performance a lot. Some singles may not climb at all with full flaps if the airplane is heavy and the density altitude high so flap retraction is crucial. On more powerful airplanes the procedure may be to leave the flaps alone until you have a positive rate of climb and the airplane is accelerating.

Of course the most urgent need to make a balked landing would be when you hear the propeller tips striking the pavement. More than one pilot has poured on the power when he realized the wheels are up and made it around to land. But others haven’t. Once the prop strikes the runway the propeller itself, or the engine, may not hold together after full power comes in and you will end up in a critical situation. If the prop hits first, just be happy that you remembered to pay the insurance premium if not to lower the wheels and slide it on. Nobody is ever hurt in unintentional gear-up landings.


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11 Responses to Balked Landing–Worth the Practice

  1. larry maynard says:

    Mac, good article for some people. But a lot of us flying experimentals like my Titan Tornado II and RV8A don’t really face these problems unless you really mess up. That’s because a lot of our airplanes in the experimental community like mine are over powered. Yes, I have screwed up some landings and had to go around. With a lot of these experimentals you don’t have to worry about flaps because you can always power out of mistakes. Nice thing to have — more power than you will likely need to ever have in the landing configuration. I know about the problems with airliners having to spool up for go arounds. Not much of a problem with the majority of us EAA guys who fly relatively light weight planes with props. Nothing wrong with going around when things just don’t look right. Unless you are about to be out of fuel (a cardinal sin in my view) just extend your final and get set up in a comfortable and stablized approach.


    • Mac says:

      You’re right. Light weight sure makes a difference during a balked landing. The greater the mass the more energy required to convert a descent into a climb.
      Mac Mc

  2. Pingback: Balked Landings | High Altitude Flying Club

  3. Frank Giger says:

    Mac, you need to jump in a Champ on a really gusty crosswind day, especially in the summer where there is a lot of thermal stuff going on!

    Nothing like finding one’s self fifteen feet to the left or right as if a mighty magical hand has pushed one over to hone the “balked” landing skills. My own theory on to go-arounds is that they’re free and don’t involve repair bills, so never be afraid to bail out of a bad landing and go around the patch again!

    Personally I’ve never gone around until well into final – probably a function of the “low and slow” aircraft I’m in. That and I do a lot of pattern work – touch and goes are good for the soul – and am doing short/soft/land on a dot practice.

  4. C. Lloyd says:


    I did have a balked landing in a Cessna 182 on Houston Hobby 12L when a Eastern DC-9 taxied in front of my path to 12L headed to 12R. The FO on the side toward my approach was heads down, the tower was talking a mile a minute with no control over the Eastern taxi mistake. I saw this one coming at about 200 feet and when they did not stop or look, executed a balked landing. After adding power, reconfiguring and establishing a climb, I declared a missed approach in the lull of radio chatter. The initial tower comment was “Oh”as the tower controller noticed the DC-9 taxi to 12R across 12L.

  5. Ray Baker says:

    Like yourself, I have seen no clear definition between a missed approach and a rejected landing, but have taught without challenge that prior to the runway threshold a need to go-around requires the use of the prescribed missed approach procedure for the type concerned. However, once at or past the threshold, a rejected landing must be initiated by immediate max power application and simultaneous rotation BUT NO CONFIGURATION CHANGE, even with an engine failed on a multi, until a positive rate of climb is indicated. Close to the ground, flap-retraction could result in a continued sink. Early retraction of the gear could result in increased drag, (gear door activity, etc.) and aircraft damage in the event of a touch-down. When well clear of the ground/obstacle, carry out the prescribed missed approach procedure for the type concerned.

  6. Muhammad Abdullah says:

    A go around is performed in the air, whereas in a balked landing, the wheels have touched down – hence you can call it a ‘rejected landing’.

  7. P.g says:

    Throughout references I have seen,any go-arround innitiated below MDA/H or DA/H for any reason(gusty weather,unstabilized app,unathorized aircreft or vehicle on runway,etc)is considered balked landing.ofcourse you shoud have enough visual reference to descend below minimums,which is another differnce between go-arround and balked landing!

  8. David Miller says:

    Balked landing is a go around between MDA-DA down to touch down whereas a Bulked landing is a kind of touch, swell and go after spoilers’ extention due to immediate unexpected last seconds obstructions in the landing runway (such as vehicles etc).

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