The latest AAIB October bulletins have just been published, I’ve picked this one to comment on;
Piper PA-28-161 Cherokee Warrior II, G-BNXE
19 April 2016 at 1230 hrs-Location:Sturgate Airfield, Lincolnshire
Persons on Board: Crew – 1 Passengers – 2
Injuries: Crew – None Passengers – None
Nature of Damage: Damage to front and right wheel fairings and propeller and engine shock-loaded
Commander’s Licence: Light Aircraft Pilot’s Licence Commander’s Age: 73 years
Commander’s Flying Experience:1,290 hours (of which 850 were on type)
Last 90 days – 5 hours Last 28 days – 3 hours
Information Source: Aircraft Accident Report Form submitted by the pilot
The pilot was approaching to land on Runway 27 at Sturgate Airfield which had a dry asphalt surface and a length of 820 m. He described the wind as “light and variable”. He had made several ‘blind’ radio calls to which had received no response, during which he noted that the wind strength appeared to be about 4 kt.
On final approach, the pilot felt that he was slightly high due to noise abatement procedures over local houses and selected two stages of flap. On touchdown he felt that the wind had calmed completely, causing him to float further than he would have expected, with the result that the aircraft ran off the end of the runway and into an area of ploughed land.
Yet again another example of an AAIB report which does not contain any useful advice to prevent recurrence.
On reading the report it’s obvious that the pilot was uncomfortable and uneasy about this approach and landing. If he had translated that unease into a positive command decision and flown a go around, I wouldn’t be writing this. However the selection of flaps 2 instead of flaps full and the precedence given to a noise abatement procedure rather than the safety of the aircraft shows some flawed thinking and very likely, poor training. The first priority is the safe flightpath of the aircraft, not a noise abatement procedure.
We are not told of the weight of the aircraft or the speeds flown (another example of the inspectors lack of investigation, they just seem to accept what is written with no further communication) so it’s difficult to consider that but 820 metres landing distance is a respectable distance to achieve a successful landing in a PA28, so we must assume that the threshold speed and height was too high.
Unfortunately the present ‘Tiger Moth’ syllabus of PPL training seems to differentiate between a short field or performance landing and an ordinary landing to an extent that many pilots don’t seem to really know when to adopt a short field technique. Why not try my technique, fly every approach as a short field or performance landing and just make the brake application the only difference. Why fly overspeed at the threshold anyway, you’ve only got to get rid of that speed with the brakes or at worst with the downwind hedge!
Decision making is about prioritising and flight path takes priority over noise abatement.
Have a stable height target (ours is 200 feet) If you are not stable at 200 feet-GO AROUND!
Have a threshold target speed. If you’re outside that speed – GO AROUND!
If you find you are floating over the runway and are concerned about the remaining landing distance- GO AROUND!
If landing distance is a concern, use flaps full but be stable by 200 feet
Ensure you can fly (and are in current practice) a short field approach and landing using the speeds and technique as described in the flight manual.
Beware of bar room experts who say, add 10 knots for your family, fly the published speeds.
Consider calling a nearby airfield for their surafce wind but use with caution.
Read the CAA safety sense leaflets at http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?appid=11&mode=list&type=sercat&id=21 on
Contact the AAIB and ask then why they cannot publish some recommendations, as I have done above. After all they state their aim is to investigate accidents and make safety recommendations to prevent recurrence.