In view of the recent landing accident at HG this month I have reissued this article again (originally posted Oct 2014) 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 but you may need to remind them that being good rather than just competent does need a bit more effort.

Consider it as a 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. Amazingly the pilot walked away!

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

I understand from a witness that after a couple of bounces the aircraft pitched up into a high nose attitude, appears to have stalled, dropped a wing and hit the ground rolling over several times. Do you now understand why you need the, ‘harness – check tight for landing’ on the pre landing checklist?

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)

Here is a pilot who tried everything except a Go Around. Notice how the nose leg finally collapses!



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 rebuilt at HG by Steve Green.

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

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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. You should always follow the recommended procedure in the aircraft flight manual in conjunction with any pilots order book or operating manual published by your flying school or club.


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!