the Hard Way
“Just how many mistakes and errors of judgement can one pilot make and
still be lucky enough to live to tell the story?”
The pilot of a Cessna F150 took off from Shoreham
runway 20 for a short flight to Deanland, about 20 miles to the east.
Deanland has a grass runway aligned 06/24 with right hand circuits on Runway
24 and a Landing Distance Available of 457 m. There are trees and buildings
to the left of Runway 24. There are detailed instructions on joining,
departing and circuit procedure in flight guides. These instructions include
obtaining PPR by phone.
The pilot had 100 hours on type and was inexperienced in short field
operations and had never landed at Deanland although he had recently flown
into several small grass strips with another pilot who was experienced in
short strip operations. When this pilot arrived at Deanland he made radio
calls but did not see the windsock and assumed it was obscured by trees. He
joined downwind at 600 ft agl and turned to land on Runway 24. He became
concerned that he was a little high on the approach and selected full flap.
He was increasingly aware that he was high. He continued his approach,
touching down halfway along the runway, to the left of centre and bounced. He
then noticed the windsock that indicated a tailwind on Runway 24. The
aircraft veered left and departed the runway. The left wing struck a building
and the aircraft spun around, suffering severe damage to the wings, empennage
and fuselage. The pilot was uninjured and got out of the wreckage unaided.
considered that he should have overflown the airfield to establish the wind
direction before joining the circuit and that having an experienced pilot
with him would have been an advantage. He did not attempt a go-around as he
felt this would have been potentially hazardous in a Cessna 150 with full
flap and a tailwind!
The facts of this accident are taken from AAIB Report EW/G2008/09/21
which source is gratefully acknowledged.
Just how many mistakes and errors of
judgement can one pilot make and still be lucky enough to live to tell the
The UK Civil Aviation Authority publishes some 27 General Aviation
Safety Sense leaflets that are all packed with excellent advice on many
aspects of General Aviation flying. These are freely available to everyone
and may be examined at
www.caa.co.uk or simply by entering “Safety Sense Leaflets”
into our Google search box. There are also available a good selection of
Flight Guides published that give details of UK airfields and their operating
procedures. One such guide refers to Deanland with the following notes.
‘Considerate pilots welcome at own risk, but PPR by phone. Aircraft insurance
must cover operational risks at landing strips. Avoid overflying Ripe
village, the caravan park and local houses, particularly the two to the North
of the airfield with large lakes. Circuits at 1000’ aal, LH on 06, RH on 24.
Arr – large circuits with minimum of 1.5 nm final maintaining extended
I have no idea how many of these restrictions were observed by the
pilot who decided to teach himself strip landings by flying into Deanland. I
don’t know if he every read Safety Sense Leaflet 12 “Strip Sense” or Leaflet
7 “Aeroplane Performance” but if he did he certainly seems to have decided to
ignore most of the contents of these leaflets.
scan through “Strip Sense” uncovers many gems such as “You MUST be fully
familiar with the contents of Safety Sense Leaflet 7 (Aeroplane Performance).
Remember the figures shown in the Pilots Operating Handbook are for a new
aeroplane flown by an expert pilot under ideal conditions — your own
abilities as a pilot need critical and honest assessment. You must check the
insurance will not be invalidated by operating from an unlicensed strip. It
is sensible to have a familiarisation flight to and from the strip with a
pilot who knows the strip and is both current on your aeroplane and
operations into grass strips. You should arrange for a FLYING INSTRUCTOR to
appraise your flying skills and revise and improve short field, soft field,
general circuits and airmanship skills.”
The “Strip Sense” and “Aeroplane Performance” leaflets contain many
more pieces of excellent advice, as do all the General Aviation Safety Sense
Leaflets. However, it is vital for pilots to realise that operating from
short strips is not something that you can teach yourself. You really do need
to be trained by an instructor who is qualified in short field
The pilot involved in this accident destroyed his aircraft and must
consider himself very lucky not to have been seriously injured or killed in
the totally avoidable crash. It is to be hoped that he has learned the folly
of ‘do-it-yourself’ strip training and that others will learn from his folly.
Too Much Haste, Not Enough Speed
When time is short and everything seems to be conspiring to cause delay it
is all too easy to miss some vital part of pre-flight preparation.
was trying to expedite the departure from a westerly runway late one December
afternoon. His Cherokee Archer was taking off from the 800 m runway that had
the first 550 m asphalt followed by 250 m of grass. There was a 2.6% upslope
over the first three quarters of the runway. The pre-takeoff checks were
completed and then the aircraft backtracked to the threshold of Runway 25.
During the backtrack the pilot applied carburettor heat as the damp grass
suggested a high relative humidity and a risk of carburettor icing. The pilot
had calculated that the aircraft’s weight and CG were within limits, with two
passengers on board.
The takeoff was towards the setting sun that caused the pilot
considerable distraction when he found it difficult to see inside the cockpit
after looking out. The passenger in the front right seat was a PPL holder and
he assisted by calling out the airspeed. After rolling 550 m to the end of
the asphalt the aircraft had only reached 50 kt and the pilot abandoned the
takeoff. He was unable to stop the aircraft on the remaining 250 m of damp
grass and the aircraft overran the runway end and was substantially damaged.
One passenger suffered minor injury.
The pilot candidly admitted that he had forgotten to reset the
carburettor heat control to COLD before beginning the attempted takeoff run.
He has since been briefed by his club’s CFI on takeoff performance,
establishing an appropriate abort point, the effects of carburettor heat on
engine power, the time of day and the hazard of doing additional adjustments
and checks after all regular checks have been completed. Enough said!
The facts are based on AAIB Report EW/G2008/12/02 which source is
gratefully acknowledged. For information on carburettor icing, see the
July 2008 Issue of Gremline.
Are You Certain Your Students are Fit for Their Next
“Never trust a student to understand anything first time.”
After several dual flight exercises in a Robinson
R22 Beta the instructor briefed the student to fly his first solo circuit.
She advised the student to apply additional forward and left cyclic during
takeoff to compensate for the lack of an occupant in the left seat. During
the first attempted takeoff the aircraft yawed left which the student
controlled with right yaw pedal and landed. The instructor returned to the
aircraft and, using the intercom, reminded him to apply forward and left
cyclic control. The instructor moved away and the student attempted another
takeoff. The aircraft yawed more violently to the left without leaving the
ground. The student applied right cyclic and right yaw pedal input. The
aircraft ‘jolted’ and the student aft cyclic, causing the aircraft to pitch
nose up. The student then applied forward and left cyclic and raised the
collective to gain height. The rear tip of the right skid remained in contact
with the ground and the aircraft rolled over onto its right side causing damage
to the main rotor and a fuel leak. The student broke his right wrist. There
was no fire.
The instructor intends to reinforce her teaching of dynamic rollover
and the appropriate techniques for avoiding it and recovering from it.
The facts are based on AAIB Report EW/G2008/10/09 which source is
Instructors are often faced with making a judgement on the real
abilities of a student’s fitness to progress to the next step in training.
Students’ reactions and thought processes can fail when faced with problems
while they are solo when they have already demonstrated their ability to
handle these situations with an instructor sitting beside them. Students can
also exhibit difficulty grasping some elementary point without the instructor
spotting this gap in the student’s understanding.
Perhaps that is all another way of putting something I was taught
when learning to instruct: “Never trust a student to understand anything
first time.” And: “Anything you have taught a student will drain out their
ears as they climb into the cockpit for a solo flight.”
Text and Photographs © 2009 Gremline & Hill House
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