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Pressure, pride can cause us to bend airplanes


Too many of us try to save a landing from an unstabilized approach resulting in a hard landing, a bounced landing, a porpoise or a trip through the weeds.

During landing at a farm strip, the Cessna 182P porpoised twice, resulting in separation of the nose gear. The aircraft settled onto its nose, damaging the propeller. There were no injuries to the pilot who was the only person on board. The ELT activated briefly before the pilot deactivated it.

The first approach for a Cessna 206D to Runway 12 resulted in a missed approach due to gusty winds from the south. On the second approach, the aircraft began to porpoise on touchdown which resulted in the collapse of the nose gear and the aircraft exiting the side of the runway.

A Cessna 337 was landing at the operator’s private airstrip when the aircraft did not stop at the east end of the half-mile asphalt runway.

The aircraft entered a ditch at slow speed, and incurred some damage to one of the wings, landing gear and prop. There were no injuries. Poor braking action was reported, and tire skid marks were noted near the end of the runway. The runway was reported to be covered with mist or dew with a slight quartering tailwind at the time of the occurrence.

The 1967 Piper PA-18 Supercub was observed descending steeply toward runway 34 and touched down at the mid-point of the runway at an estimated airspeed of 45-50 mph. There was a crosswind at 310 degrees and eight knots. The aircraft bounced and the pilot regained control with full throttle application. The airplane was pointing straight down the runway when a wind gust reportedly picked up the left wing. The aircraft subsequently stalled with a right wing drop resulting in the aircraft crashing through a perimeter fence to the right of the runway, hitting a small berm, and flipping over. Both occupants extricated themselves from the aircraft and the passenger was taken to hospital for observation.

The pilot of a Mooney 20C was instructed by the tower controller to land long and exit at Taxiway Bravo. The pilot did attempt to land long, but was fast and it looked like he was going to overshoot the taxiway.

He forced the aircraft onto the runway nose wheel first causing the propeller to strike the runway. He was able to regain control and exit the runway.

The first two accidents listed were the result of pilots landing nose wheel first which resulted in a porpoise. It does not appear that any of the pilots attempted to overshoot at the first indication of a porpoise. The result of a porpoise is a collapsing of the nose gear on the second or third contact of the nose gear with the runway.

If we touch down nose gear first and the aircraft bounces back onto the main wheels we are starting to porpoise. We have probably assisted this by pulling the control column back. The only way to regain control of the aircraft is to hold the control column aft and to add full power and overshoot. If we try to regain control and remain on the runway, we will always be one step behind the aircraft in the porpoise and the result will be nose wheel separation.

The C 337 was either not paying attention to the wind and runway conditions or was ignoring them. A half mile runway is plenty of length for a C 337, so he likely landed long as well. The braking action on a wet runway with a tail wind was obviously not adequate. We get complacent with both wet runways and with light tailwinds. We operate with one or the other frequently. The combination of the two should cause us to re-think the situation. If we decide to continue, which we might if the strip is one-way; we should make sure that we use a short field landing technique. If it looks like we are going to land the least bit long, we should overshoot.

The Supercub pilot was not stabilized on the approach which resulted in a long landing and a bounce. Because of the unstabilized approach, he was not able to judge the crosswind and was caught by surprise when it affected him during the bounce. Too much was now happening too quickly for him to control the aircraft during the overshoot. A steep approach to a long landing should have been the cues to overshoot much earlier. We all know that God lives in the control tower and we must do as He says. Unless safety is involved. Attempting to force an aircraft onto the runway at too high an airspeed can result in a porpoise, a wheelbarrow or a prop strike. An M 20C does not have a lot of prop/ground clearance at the best of times. An overshoot again was indicated.

Sometimes we are in in hurry – like the Supercub pilot. The pressure we put on ourselves in such situations can cause us to ignore procedures we would normally follow and will impair our judgment. As the situation starts to deteriorate, we tend to focus on one thing at a time and lose situational awareness. We may not see that other things are going wrong as well. We try to follow controllers’ clearances and instructions as best we can, as did the M 20C pilot. When we are not able to for any reason, it is our responsibility to do what is safe and then to inform them as to why we are not able. We must not let an ATC instruction pressure us into attempting something we are not safely able to do.

It appears the first two pilots forced the aircraft onto the runway at too high an airspeed, likely because they felt they were running out of runway. The C 206D pilot may have felt embarrassed to miss a second approach and may have put undue pressure onto himself to complete the approach.

The pressure we put on ourselves, and possibly pride, causes us to bend more airplanes than probably anything else. In the case of landing, overshooting is always an option if performed early enough.

 • Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently manages a small airline and teaches part-time for a local aviation/university program. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.