Friday, September 09, 2005

Accident of the Week

(Thanks, Blogger, for losing the first iteration of this post and making me write it again!)

This week's Accident of the Week reminds us that the Pilot in Command must aviate the plane until it is completely on the runway and below flight speed:
NTSB Identification: LAX05LA286
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 02, 2005 in Yuma, AZ
Aircraft: Cessna 172, registration: N5070A
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On September 2, 2005, at 0830 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172 airplane, N5070A, was substantially damaged when it impacted the displaced threshold for runway 8 at the Yuma International Airport, Yuma, Arizona. The private pilot/owner of the airplane sustained serious injuries and the passenger was fatally injured. The pilot operated the airplane under the auspices of 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the local flight that departed Yuma around 0715.

During a telephone interview with the pilot, he reported that the purpose of the flight was to photograph some private property of his that was for sale. The passenger was seated in the left seat to photograph the property and the pilot was flying from the right seat.

They finished taking photographs of the property and were returning to the airport when the accident occurred. The airplane was on final approach and the pilot was conducting a full-flap landing. He reported that everything was fine, but the airplane began descending too fast. He applied some power to go-around, but the airplane encountered a gust of wind and stalled on short final.

Witnesses informed the FAA inspector who responded to the accident site that they observed the airplane on short final. The nose pitched up to a level position about 50 feet above the ground and then nosed down until impact with the ground.

Photographs taken of the accident site by airport operations personnel displayed tire marks on the displaced threshold followed by parallel gouges in the asphalt that were perpendicular to the airplane's direction of travel. The airplane came to rest upright about 80 yards from the initial impact point and erupted into flames. The center fuselage was burnt in its entirety and the wings were bent down and the tips were touching the ground. The floorboard behind the front seats was bent up and the aft fuselage and empennage were lying on the ground.

At 0856, the weather observation facility at the Yuma International Airport reported the wind from 080 degrees at 7 knots.
Now, if I recall correctly, a 1955 model 172, which this plane was, has 40 degrees of flaps available. If that is correct, and the pilot was using all of them (hence the statement "full-flaps landing"), you have to ask: WHY? The winds were right down the runway at less than 10 knots (landing runway 08, winds at 080 at 7 knots). We have degrees of flaps in 78S, and almost never use them to get into our home base, which is 2450 feet long. Who needs them on a 6146 foot runway? Perhaps if there hadn't been as much drag, the go-around attempt might have produced better results.

Fly the airplane onto the ground. Avoid stalls on short final. Don't flare 50 feet above the runway.

And, as other accident writers, would say, "This article represents the opinon of the writer only. All information is taken from the NTSB Accident report. No effort is made to assign blame. This is merely food for thought."


John said...

I instruct in various vintage 172s, some with 30 degrees maximum flaps and some with 40 degrees. I prefer models with 40 degrees for several reasons Short field landings are more effective with flaps 40 as are soft field landings on grass strips. The sink rate with all the flaps in can be more pronounced, so your go-around technique needs to be sharp. Ideally, a pilot should be proficient at landing using the entire range of flaps from none to full.

The "region of reverse command" (as the FAA likes to call it) is something that all pilots need to understand and practice. Go-arounds as well as correcting a low and slow condition on short final are counterintuitive since you have to add power and push the yoke foward. I never cease to be amazed when I fly with pilots (some quite experienced) who still seem to think that pulling back on the yoke will always make the airplane climb.

SloppyPilot said...

Good point John, and one I've noticed being communicated several time lately. I'll take that as a poke from the universe that I should learn this lesson the "easy" way and pay attention.

Reading the accident report the item that jumps out at me was the pilot was flying from the right seat. If he's not a CFI and doing this all the time that might have added to the go around confusion.