Another landing accident!

In view of the recent landing accident at HG I have reissued this article again with some updates on our stable criteria (in blue text) which several of you have asked me about as understandably some of you have never heard of stable criteria on final. Good flying schools and instructors will teach stable criteria on final.

Consider it as target. In our case the target stabilisation height is 200 feet. If the aircraft is not stable by 200 feet, or at any point from 200 feet onwards, a go around is initiated.


We have sadly had two landing incidents at Halfpenny Green in 2014 and yet another more serious accident this year (2015)

In 2014 the two were, a visiting PA 28 aircraft and one involving a Diamond DA 42 from a home based flying school. In August 2015 another accident occurred to a home based Cessna 152 and this is one of the most serious landing accidents I have come across with the aircraft ending up inverted beside the runway.

This is what happend when you do not initiate a correctlty flown go around straight away. This a/c stalled and rolled over several times

This is what happens when you do not initiate a correctly flown go around straight away. This a/c stalled and rolled over several times

Again I have to reiterate that all of these accidents and many more throughout the UK could be avoided if after a large balloon or bounce the pilot had flown an immediate well executed go around.

Of course it’s very easy to just blame the pilots in situations like this but in my experience too much concentration by instructors on landing practice and technique and not enough practice on teaching instinctive go around action can be a contributory cause of landing accidents, this also applies to check flights when again, instructors place emphasis on landing ability rather than Go Around ability.


My simple criteria for a solo check out is:


If you study landing accidents in any detail you will see that it’s virtually unheard of for an aircraft to be flown straight into the runway and the nosewheel damaged. By far, the majority of landing accidents are preceded by a large balloon resulting in a bounce or series of bounces or a large bounce followed by several more. Whichever category it falls under, it’s not going to get any better if you just sit there! You need to make a quick command decision and a Go Around is always the best one, especially for low hour pilots.


In the Diamond accident it is stated that the approach was stable but then the sink rate increased! If the sink rate increases enough to cause concern THE APPROACH IS NO LONGER STABLE! This why we have a 200 feet stable target! If the aircraft does not meet the stable criteria at or below 200 feet-GO AROUND! (most schools unfortunately don’t teach stable approach targets)


Correct stable airspeed & rate of descent – maximum 1000 feet per minute (unless you have deliberately increased the rate of descent during a glide approach or PFL)

Correct glide path (minimum is 3 degrees or approach angle set by approach angle indicators on the airfield- EG – Leeds runway 17 = 3.5 degrees)

Correct centreline alignment

Correct configuration (flap setting-final flap setting has been made and in position)

Cleared to land or runway unobstructed and clear for landing (student solo)

Approach flight path obstacles visual check (from a/c to threshold)

Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Well it’s no more complicated than the pre landing check and just another logical part of a ‘thinking pilot’s’ training. I’ve just slowly completed it all in 10 seconds and if you start with the bottom 3 at around 300 feet you will have everything completed by 200ft (airspeed, centreline and height should be a constant check all the way down the approach)

While on the subject of landing clearances I’ve noticed a lot of pilots do not habitually call final when they arrive on final approach, they wait till later or sometimes even forget. Always try to call final asap when you come onto final approach as it then puts the onus onto ATC straight away, as well as freeing you up to concentrate on the approach, plus it helps everyone else in the circuit establish where you are.

The two landing accidents are detailed below, if you don’t want to feature in the next one remember what my minimum criteria is for first solo students.

I want to see two perfect go arounds, one from the approach and one from 10 feet and  three consecutive acceptable landings (acceptable being that the aircraft is capable of taxying back to the ramp in a similar condition to that which it taxied out in)

Happy flying and safe GA’s



14/09/2014 2014  –Hard landing.

Aircraft landed heavily, bouncing repeatedly alternately on the main wheels and nosewheel before recovering to a normal landing. Operator advised of possible heavy landing. Operator later advised ATS that tips of three-bladed propeller missing. Runway inspected for debris but nothing found.

Supplementary 14/9/14:

Stable approach approx 75 KIAS. Observed increased sink rate, slow to add power. Bounced on first touchdown, tried to correct from the bounce with a subsequent second bounce resulting in propeller strike. Aircraft returned to parking area, on shutdown damage was observed. Company have taken appropriate action.


Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee, G-ASIL

Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Airport, Staffordshire

02 July 2014


The aircraft was on the approach to Runway 16 at Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Airport. It had joined the circuit on the downwind leg at 1,100 ft agl, slowing to 90 mph on base leg whilst extending two stages of flap. After turning finals, the pilot reduced speed to 85 mph whilst selecting the third stage of flap and, crossing the airfield boundary, he again slowed to 80 mph. He states that he was happy with all aspects of the approach as he then closed the throttle to glide the remaining 50 – 100 ft to touchdown. As he neared the beginning of the paved surface, he started to flare the aircraft but, before the flare was complete, the wheels touched and the aircraft bounced, he believes three times, before the nose landing gear collapsed and the aircraft slid to a halt on its nose.

The pilot believes that the aircraft struck a bump at the beginning of the touchdown zone, whilst it was in a relatively flat attitude, and travelling quite fast across the ground due to the lack of headwind and the lack of opportunity to lose speed in the flare.


Pleased to report that GASIL is now alive and well having been beautiful rebuilt at HG by Steve Green.

Can anyone tell me where the bump is on runway 16? Maybe it’s a dent now?

Click on the FOLLOW askcaptainjon button, if you can find it, to subscribe to these blogs, they are very educational, they have certainly taught me a lesson!

Please feel free to comment or disagree on anything I say, if I am having a good day I may well respond.

All the above is based on my opinion, you should seek the opinion of your own flying instructor, most of whom, in my experience, have plenty of opinions but insufficient knowledge and experience to go with those opinions!


An approach go around is not a runway go around! Obviously both need to be taught and practiced but the only way to ensure students are safe above the runway is to practice above the runway go arounds and preferably with the aircraft out of trim with flaps full. If the student doesnt make bad landings induce a safe big balloon or bounce the a/c yourself and than immediately say to the student, ” YOU HAVE CONTROL – FULL POWER GO AROUND” .

This procedure needs to be practiced time and time again so that it becomes habitual and instinctive. You need to be very sure that when your student is solo at anytime during the course they will immediately react to a missed landing with a go around, until this is achieved they cannot be sent solo. This also needs to be considered again when checking the student out for solo land away cross countries.  The away from base airfield landing makes some students feel quite uncomfortable and the importance of the instinctive go around becomes much more essential.

Always include a runway go around and EFATO in pre solo check flights and always keep in the back of your mind that you may have to stand up in court and justify what you did or didn’t do before you authorised the solo flight.  This is very much the age of  injury compensation and a sharp injury lawyer will use everything he can find to try and prove you were negligent. You may also want to consider taking out professional indemnity insurance too!

Spinning- a non event in a Cessna 152? Rubbish!

“Spinning is a non event in a Cessna 152”. This is a comment an instructor and engineer made to me once and it is typical of the sort of misleading information that ‘commentary instructors’ dine out on. There are many factors that can influence the spin characteristics of an aircraft and its ability to recover safely. Mass, configuration, C of G, power setting and entry speed can all change spin characteristics and delay, or even prevent recovery.

I’ve had two spin frights in my career, one aircraft had long range tanks and they were near to full making it outside the C of G and weight limit for spinning, another was later found to have reduced rudder travel. Both incidents resulted in delayed recovery and increased heart rate.

The most startling incident I remember was a Cherokee 180 in which the front seat passenger decided to show the pilot and the two rear seat passengers how to spin the aircraft. The Cherokee PA28 isn’t approved for spinning with rear seat passengers and on that evening 4 people learned a very valuable lesson about C of G position and spin recovery which would be later recounted in the Leominster Magistrates Court. It would seem from the accounts that recovery was only made possible by  one of the rear seat passengers (a club instructor) leaning forward as a last resort to try juggling the throttle and in doing so caused a C of G change which allowed a very late recovery extremely close to the ground. In fact recovery was so late and violent that the subsequent pull out deformed both wings to such an extent that they had to be replaced! All this is an aircraft I’ve heard many instructors say has docile stall/spin characteristics!

There is of course another reason that recovery may not be effected-the student freezes on the controls. I’ve only had it happen once when a student froze on the brakes on landing on runway 06 at Birmingham, apparently I hold the record for the shortest landing of a Cessna 150 ever at Birmingham! It certainly woke me up and taught me a lesson and it’s why I now always say to early students on the approach-HEELS ON THE FLOOR-dont ride the brakes!

What do you do if a student freezes at a crucial moment? Unfortunately the only thing you can really do in a life threatening situation is to punch him or her in the face very hard after of course challenging twice with, ” I have control”. Think that’s a bit harsh? Read the following below from a FAA magazine and you may change your mind!

(By the way, for instructors-dont forget to write up clearly in the students record if there is any tendency to freeze on the controls, or not to respond correctly to, “I have control”.  Also write up students that are not becoming progressively more relaxed as their training progresses. This information is very important for the next instructor)

Death grip: Spin training turns tragic

In aviation, a little fear can be a good thing. A wary appreciation for what could go wrong makes for a safer pilot than brash cockiness in the cockpit. The key is not to let healthy fear become debilitating panic in the face of stress. Seized by overpowering fright, an impulsive pilot may overpower the one thing that could avert disaster—the more experienced pilot beside him.

On June 8, 2006, a CFI-in-training and his instructor were killed when they failed to recover from an intentional spin. The accident airplane, a Cessna 152, showed no sign of mechanical failure and had been used earlier that day for spin training without incident. The student reportedly had a history of impulsive and panicked behavior during stressful situations, including locking his grip on the yoke and refusing to give up control of the airplane.

The flight departed Phoenix Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., at about 2:45 p.m. The airplane proceeded northwest toward the local practice area, climbing to 6,100 feet msl. The 200-hour pilot, who held a commercial certificate, was enrolled in a multiengine CFI course that required spin training as part of the curriculum. The purpose of the instructional flight was to introduce the pilot to spins and practice spin-recovery procedures.

Radar returns showed the aircraft completing several maneuvers that included short climbs followed by quick, 1,000-foot altitude losses, consistent with the instructor demonstrating spin entry and recovery for the student. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Cessna climbed to 5,500 feet msl. Returns then showed the airplane plunging 2,100 feet in 20 seconds before disappearing completely from radar.

The wreckage was discovered on the side of a hill near a golf course. Airframe deformation and ground scarring were consistent with the airplane striking the ground in a spin. Amid the debris, accident investigators discovered a kneeboard with a piece of notebook paper secured in its clip. A handwritten note on the paper included a list: “[1] aileron neutral; [2] throttle idle; [3] opposite rudder; [4] pitch down.” Investigators found no evidence of mechanical failure or other anomalies that would have contributed to the accident or prevented spin recovery.

Interviews with students and instructors at the flight school helped piece together a probable cause for the accident. One instructor, who had flown with the accident pilot about 10 or 12 times, described the pilot’s skills as good within the training environment but lacking in situations “outside the box.” He recalled the student pilot acting impulsively on numerous occasions when a stressful situation was simulated, such as failing an engine or stalling the airplane. The student would stiffen on the controls, “seizing the yoke as if petrified.” During one flight, the instructor had to physically jab the student in the leg to get him to relinquish the controls. Another instructor described a similar experience with the same student.

If the 230-pound male student had panicked during his first experience with spin recovery, it would have been next to impossible for the 100-pound female instructor to override his control inputs. The NTSB blamed the crash on the failure of both the flight instructor and student pilot to regain control of the airplane in a timely manner during an intentional spin maneuver, resulting in a collision with terrain.

While only required for the CFI ticket, spin training can be a worthwhile experience for any pilot. Spin-training mishaps are extremely rare, and the Cessna 152’s safety record is among the best of any spin-certified aircraft, according to data in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s special report on stall/spin accidents. The report further notes that recognition and prevention are the most important aspects of spin training, given that more than 80 percent of stall/spin accidents occur when the aircraft is maneuvering less than 1,000 feet above the ground—an altitude that makes spin recovery unlikely.

This accident also demonstrates the importance of a relaxed approach to flying. Stressful situations are inevitable. The key is to remain focused and calm when faced with the unexpected. That may be easier said than done, but pilots who survive in-flight emergencies consistently cite level-headedness and reliance on checklists or proven safety routines as critical to their success. Unfortunately, those who succumb to panic and seize at the controls frequently encounter tragedy—the literal implications of a death grip.


Spin recovery is no longer required for the EASA PPL.  PPL Flight Instructor candidates must be able to teach spin recovery. Before attempting to spin any aircraft you should read the manufacturers limitations and recovery technique and pay special attention to C of G position. A pre flight mass and balance calculation is essential. Some training aircraft are not cleared for spinning under any circumstances. Some aircraft, such as the PA28, can be flown within the Normal Category or Utility Category. See

FLY SAFE  – Remember Orville Wright taught himself to fly and that is what you will be doing if you don’t receive competent professional instruction – good luck!

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