November 14, 2019

The Turn That Kills


By Gilles Jean. President of Aviateurs Quebec

According to Transport Canada, nearly 30 percent of fatal accidents are due to a loss of control during takeoff or landing. Often they are experienced pilots so how do you explain that? You better understand what is happening because it could happen to you!

Many accidents occur during a high banking turn to final. The pilot realizes that he is not aligned and tries to correct by a sharp 45 degree bank or even 60 degrees while raising the nose to keep his altitude. The result is the speed decreases and the plane pitches up. 

At this altitude, it is unlikely to recover. What happens to your stall speed during a turn? At 45 degrees, the stall speed will be 20 percent higher than that in level flight and at 60 degrees it will be 41 percent higher. So, for example a Cessna 172R with a stall speed (Vs) of 51 knots (POH) will stall at 72 knots on a 60 degree turn. 

The recommended approach speed is 65-75 knots. The pilot who is used to making his approaches to 70 knots and decides to make a 60 degrees turn while straightening the nose is likely to be in trouble. This has happened to many of us. The moral of the story is that if your approach is not stabilized and in line final way ahead, go around. The habit should be that when we feel discomfort with our approach, we should simply add power and try again. We won’t tell anyone!