Better Pilot: Takeoff & Landing Precautions

sion created by the narrower run- way—he misjudged his altitude. While still making an S-turn, he slammed into the runway. Fortunately, both occupants walked.
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IT WAS JUST AFTER NOON ON A VFR on the first third of the runApril day when the private way. Unfortunately, it’s much pilot and passenger in a too easy to feel pressured to Lancair IV were completing a make a landing, and if pilots flight from Clay Center think they can “save it,” they (Kansas) Municipal Airport to are tempted to continue. Wamego (Kansas) Municipal Another lesson we pilots Airport. Everything probably learn is that excess approach seemed fine as he began his airspeed translates to much Low and slow is no time to be learning approach to Runway 17, which longer landing distances. is 3,184 feet long but at only Forcing an airplane onto the ROBERT N. ROSSIER 45 feet wide, a bit narrower runway usually leads to more than the pilot was used to. trouble, like bounces, balloons, Following another aircraft on and pilot-induced oscillations. in any approach and landing, and final, the Lancair pilot realized he pilots are often tempted to continue All of these can spell trouble, espewas too close. To adjust his spacing their approach even when their cially on a short runway. Again, if a the pilot made some S-turns. progress flies in the face of good landing isn’t shaping up as planned, Somehow—perhaps it was the illu- judgment and basic safety rules. don’t wait to use Plan B—the gosion created by the narrower run- Such may have been the case for a around. way—he misjudged his altitude. commercial pilot making an Loss of directional control is a While still making an S-turn, he approach to a 1,900-foot strip in common cause of landing accidents. slammed into the runway. Crawford, Texas, in an RV-8 one On a VFR May day a Glasair pilot Fortunately, both occupants walked early June morning. Witnesses said ground looped at Hayward away uninjured. Executive Airport the aircraft touched down on the (California) According to the 2002 Nall last third of the runway—too far and (HWD), following a 30-minute flight Report, 60 percent of homebuilt perhaps too fast to avoid trouble. It from Half Moon Bay. With the wind accidents occur during takeoff (27 bounced, touched down, and then blowing 10 knots from 280°, the percent) and landing (33 percent). nosed over, coming to rest inverted. pilot’s first approach to Runway 28L Obviously, there are lessons to be The pilot suffered minor injuries, ended in a go-around. He landed on learned here, and if we do, we can but the aircraft fared much worse. the second approach, lost directionperhaps avoid a good many of the Every student pilot learns the al control, and ended up in the grass mishaps. rule of thumb that says to go- between 28L and 28R. Neither the Decision-making is a key element around in you can’t touch down pilot nor his passenger was injured,

Takeoff & Landing Precautions

110 DECEMBER 2003


Better Pilot

and it’s not clear why the pilot lost directional control, but the fact that he did was clearly evident. On April Fool’s day, a commercial pilot flying a Pegazair lost directional control during a landing on Runway 9 at Lakeland (Florida) Linder Regional Airport when a gust of wind lifted his left wing. The NTSB report said the pilot did not respond quickly enough to the gust, and the right wing struck the runway. The aircraft nosed over and the pilot sustained minor injuries. When it comes to safe landings staying proficient in low-to-theground maneuvering is paramount. Too often, pilots become complacent, and either accept landings that are off centerline and unaligned or neglect to make the rapid inputs necessary to maintain control of the aircraft. Especially when flying tailwheel aircraft, delaying input to make even minor corrections is a dangerous mistake. Fortunately, landing accidents are usually survivable, accounting for only about 6 percent of the fatalities. Takeoff and climb accidents represent a much greater risk, accounting for 25 percent of the fatalities. So it was for a solo Glasair SH-2 pilot departing from Riverside, California, on a special VFR morning in May. Witnesses reported hearing the engine sputter shortly after the Glasair lifted off Runway 9. The aircraft made a steep left turn, rolling almost inverted before it dove into the ground. The pilot didn’t survive. As of this writing, only a preliminary NTSB report is available, and the nature of the problem and whether the pilot was attempting a return to the airport is unclear. Emergencies often take pilots by surprise, and surprises just after takeoff can be even more difficult to cope with. In any emergency— especially when we’re low to the ground—there’s nothing more important than keeping the aircraft under control, even if it means an off-field landing instead of returning to the runway. Sport Aviation


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The situation was quite different, tion turns sour at low altitude, but equally disastrous, for a Quickie there’s little margin for error. Q-200 pilot. After several hours of On a VFR June day a commercial high-speed taxi tests the private pilot was having trouble landing a pilot decided to make the home- GlaStar at the Flying Crown built’s first flight from the 5,504-foot Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. A Runway 9 at Henderson (Kentucky) witness said the pilot made a fairly City County Airport. good three-point landing on his With wind from 120° at 5 knots, first attempt, but it was a little too the report said the Quickie climbed fast. The airplane hit a bump and to about 30 feet and then began to became airborne again. The aircraft porpoise. After a prop strike it bounced twice more before the bounced back into the air, flew a pilot added power to initiate a goshort distance, touched down hard, around. Flying in a nose-high attiveered off the 75-foot wide asphalt tude, the aircraft drifted off the runway, came to rest inverted—and runway centerline to the right, burst into flames. toward some trees. The pilot did not Decision-making is a key The pilot tried to survive. maneuver with What went element in any approach aileron and rudder, wrong is unclear, and landing, and pilots but the right wing but clearly the struck a tree, tearare often tempted to pilot was having ing it from the trouble controlling continue their approach fuselage. The airthe aircraft. It came to rest even when their progress plane could have been a about eight feet up flies in the face of the in a tree. The pilot mechanical problem, incorrect basic rules of safety and was uninjured. weight and balU n d o u b t e d l y, good judgment. ance, or simply a going around is a lack of experience good action to take in the model of aircraft. when a landing doesn’t happen as Regarding accidents in home- planned. Unfortunately, pilots builts, the 2002 Nall Report states: often lose positional awareness “Some of these accidents were the when climbing out in a steep attiresult of pilots being unprepared for tude and drift away from the centhe peculiarities of their aircraft. terline. In this case, the aircraft Being prepared is particularly impor- was nose high, which impeded the tant for initial flight testing, since pilot’s view, and the resulting drift lack of preparation often shows up proved dangerous. Instructors are in approach accidents.” But as the urged to watch for pitch attitude report points out as well, “Many of and tracking errors when performthese accidents also involve poor ing go-arounds for flight reviews, judgment on the part of the pilots and drill their charges in proper involved, rather than any unique technique. features of their aircraft.” In some respects, it’s no surprise A word to the wise is sufficient. that the majority of accidents Before setting out to flight test a occur during takeoffs and landnew aircraft, be certain to prepare ings. After all, when we’re low and yourself by working with an EAA slow is no time for learning. But Flight Advisor to determine what we can reduce the risks of takeoff skills and experience your home- and landing accidents through built requires, and then acquiring constant skills maintenance and them. Whether it’s the first flight adherence to proper procedures or the thousandth, when a situa- and safety rules. 112 DECEMBER 2003