Editor’s note: This article is the first in a regular series where we will examine accident reports. But we hope to do something different here at Air Facts. Instead of just proclaiming Pilot Error and assuming “it couldn’t happen to me,” we hope to use the NTSB reports to become safer pilots. The question we’ll pose each time is: “what will I change about my flying after reading this report?”
Not all accidents happen on dark and stormy nights. The NTSB report for the crash of a Cirrus SR20 outside Chicago in 2013 is a tragic example, as a seemingly normal flight ended in flames. The pilot was landing on runway 18 at Bolingbrook’s Clow Airport (1C5) after a three hour flight from Kentucky, and the weather was quite good, with clear skies and warm temperatures. Winds were from 070 degrees at 8 knots – hardly dangerous, but perhaps a factor given the pilot’s decision to land to the south.
After a normal arrival into the Chicago area, the 63-year old pilot, who had logged roughly 350 hours of total time, set up for a landing on the 3300 ft. long runway. Things didn’t seem to go well: “the airplane touched down multiple times at least half way down the runway. The airplane was observed to takeoff from the runway and then made a left turn.” It seems as though the pilot attempted a go-around, but lost control shortly after taking off again. The airplane crashed just off the airport property and caught fire, with both the pilot and passenger fatally injured.
How could such a seemingly simple landing, in such a modern airplane, in such good weather, go so terribly wrong? Tellingly, the radar reconstruction shows that “the airplane had an average rate of descent of 1,301 feet per minute and an average ground speed of 117 knots on final approach.” If a good landing begins with a good approach, this airplane never had a chance. But a bad approach does not automatically lead to a fatal crash. When is it too late to start a go-around? How can a go-around be conducted safely?
Like every accident, the pilot did not set out to crash his airplane that day. It was hardly a high risk day, with cooperative weather and an airplane that showed no signs of pre-impact failure. But a combination of decisions and control inputs led to a tragic outcome; an outcome all of us would like to avoid.
Now it’s your turn. What can you learn from this accident? How can you avoid a situation like this? Add a comment below, but follow our three rules:
- Assume it could happen to you.
- Don’t blame the pilot – this is not a trial but a learning experience.
- Tell us what you can do to next time you fly to prevent this situation in your flying.
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What interests me most about this incident is the data pulled the radar. With such a poor approach, (and 20-20 hindsight) the decision to go around should have been clear, and easy. However, after a 3 hour cross country where the plane is pretty much flying itself, it is easy for the airplane to get ahead of the pilot. Not landing into the wind also allowed the runway to come up that much quicker, extending the gap between the airplane and the pilot. I think there should be a point on every short final where the pilot consciously asks himself “how we lookin’?” If the answer is anything less than “good”, or “we’re out of gas”, or “the airplane is on fire”, go around. Going to start doing that.
This one was close to home to me. It’s my home airport and is the first fatality we have ever had since the airport opened in 1958.
I wrote about this incident at Air Facts, here:
I agree that the weather was…
” Seemingly benign with clear skies and 8 knots out of 070, my experience is that winds from that direction are the toughest to deal with at Clow. They tend to funnel between the big box retailers that line the east border and can be adventurous as they gust and diminish, especially near mid-field where the Home Depot meets the Lowe’s. I would not choose to land south in that quartering tailwind but if there were others going that way in the pattern I wouldn’t avoid it, either. I would get down in the first 300 feet, though.”
Everyone hates the NE winds at Clow. But 8 knots? Not a piece of cake but not a real challenge, either. On speed, on slope, get it to the runway and land
Another thing is that the runway used to have a pretty big valley in the middle, deep enough that if you are on the road north of the field a landing airplane will disappear in the swale. I have heard pilots unfamiliar with the field say they kept ‘feeling for the runway and it kept moving away!” They have repaired that now and the field is supposed to reopen soon.
That also could have been part of it.
My mantra, like 99% of the little I know about flying comes from Mr. Collins: If everything doesn’t look right at 500 feet, go around and try again. Too fast, too steep a descent and an aerodynamic Cirrus?
To me, it really was…
“a close-to-home reminder of a common error easily avoided by basic technique.”
Few things that I think needs to be considered here:
1. How familiar is the pilot with the airport? Mark Fay’s comment shows that the locals will do it; but, they won’t be happy about it.
2. Did the pilot get into a sense of complacency given the “simple landing, in such a modern airplane, in such good weather”. I know of a flight instructor who suggests that we actually encounter more cross-wind landings than not in the strictest definition of the word. Have you looked at what cross-wind correction you tend to put in almost unconsciously?
3. Did the non-eventful cruise actually added to the pilot’s fatigue? Ever get bored while cruising?
If something is not challenging, I need to be more careful where my mind is wandering to. Am I suddenly fiddling with the MFD since the auto-pilot is flying anyway. Hello, I’m flying VFR. Makes one wonder at what point does a pilot get lulled into a sense of “koom-ba-ya” that they forgot where they are when their close enough to terra firma to cause a potentially fatal spectacle of themselves.
After three hours in the airplane, I’ll bet the pilot had a real need to find a toilet and he was “on a mission” to get the airplane on the ground.
350 hours is not that much and he simply didn’t recognize what he getting into. Even with more hours, we can allow ourselves to get lulled into complacency.
What will I do differently as a result of studying this accident? I will take each flight seriously, as if this flight just might be my last. I’ll pause if I catch myself being unfocused or complacent and will commit to give the remainder of the flight my very best effort.
I am a 25 year CFI, and yes you do have to blame the pilot, and or the instruction he was given.
You have to fly the proper airspeed, bleeding off extra speed while in ground effect is a receipt for disaster. Every landing you need a spot where if you are not on ground by that point, it’s an automatic go around.
You are right on, air speed is critical on approach, stable air speed or go around! I can still here my old flight instructors voice coming through the headset and seeing his finger pointing at the airspeed indicator,
A couple of observations from what is written here about the accident:
1) The high rate of descent and airspeed may have been a result of poor planning by the pilot in setting up his approach. But sometimes I have been forced by ATC – when I needed to traverse Class B or C airspace to get to my destination airport – to make very steep descents on approach from a high altitude. It’s easy enough to do in my Cherokee which is not very slippery, aerodynamically speaking, and does not necessarily pick up a lot of airspeed at descent rates greater than 1,000 to even 1,500 fpm if you use power and trim properly. But a Cirrus is a different animal altogether, and some slippery retractables are even more of a challenge when making a steep descent. Air traffic controllers don’t concern themselves with the flight characteristics of our individual aircraft when they issue clearances, and sometimes they impose rather challenging restrictions on us in crowded airspace. A pilot has to be very sharp on his/her stick and rudder skills when that happens.
2) The part that troubles me most is the pilot’s loss of control on his go-around. This is where practicing go-arounds and touch and go landings really comes in handy, because if they’re so familiar to the pilot that they’re second nature, this accident almost certainly would not have occurred at all, regardless of how high and hot the final approach was. The Cirrus is a high performance aircraft, and full throttle on a go-around is going to create a lot of left-turning yaw torque. It’s also important that the trim on final approach be set correctly (and not too nose-high). So if you’re not prepared, a go around can turn into a nasty surprise.
I didn’t really learn anything from this report, but this scenario is yet another reminder of some of the rather common challenges that we pilots need to be fully prepared to handle, at any time, whether the weather is great, so-so, or highly challenging.
As additional comment on setting the trim properly on short final, some pilots of aircraft like my Cherokee, with electric trim, are known to manage the final landing flare with the trim button, rather than direct manipulation of the yolk. I believe that’s a very bad practice, because, if you have to go around for any reason, the trim at that point is very nose high, meaning you’ve just set yourself up for a full power departure stall.
Far better to use the stick to control the flare, and use as little nose-up trim as you can comfortably manage on short final. Punching the throttle to the stop with too much nose-up trim may very well overpower the pilot, especially on higher performance aircraft.
I would hold to my mantra that once the wheels touch the ground the time for go around is past. Enough bad decisions have already been made and it’s not a good idea to accelerate into another one. Slow it down as best you can and ride it out. This is hard to do because you’re sitting there with the end of the runway coming up and you’re thinking “this is going to look bad and be expensive”. But at least you have time to think about it.
Just like in IFR, where you plan to go around and only land if you can see the runway, in VFR, it is best to plan to go around and only land if you are on speed and glidepath. This is the “lesson” in this accident.
By doing this, you get more comfortable with the go-around procedure and how the plane reacts, plus, it predisposes you to go-around as opposed to trying to force a bad situation.
I speculate that all the commenters are right, to some degree: as usual, it’s likely there is not one cause but a succession of linked and unlinked events that culminate in the tragedy. Tired+ need to pee+ complacent+ not 100% attuned to the aircraft+ being rushed by ATC+… well, you get the picture.
I’m sorry to say that, but I hate the idea of ranting about somebody’s fatal accident being sitting safe and relaxed in the chair in front of your computer. No doubts, you may instantly get some bright ideas (“Poor guy, I’d be doing this and that…”), but at this moment you are NOT tired and stressed out, not confused, panicked or terrified, most likely you are better pilot and have more hours under your belt, or maybe you are at least younger and in the perfect health and sharper mind… Whatever! But your story at this moment is totally different, so it can’t be compared. Not to offend anyone, but I’m quite disappointed with this article itself.
Don’t misunderstand the idea here, Gogona. We are explicitly trying to avoid the Monday morning quarterbacking – “I’m a better pilot,” or “that pilot was stupid,” or “only XYZ pilots do that.” We can either ignore accidents (which some advocate), or use them to become safer pilots. Our goal here is the latter. I’m not interested in playing detective or assigning blame.
Gogona – in addition to what John wrote about the purpose of this post and the series of posts to follow, it seems obvious that there is a segment of pilots who are very uncomfortable with the notion of making judgments about the actions of other pilots. John was trying to respond to that discomfort with his statement that his purpose here isn’t to judge the actions of other pilots but to learn from their errors.
This discomfort with the notion of personal accountability, by the way, is a growing problem within all of society these days, it seems, where it seems now that nobody is ever willing to be held accountable for their own actions, that we’re all somehow unwilling victims of someone or something else instead of our own actions as people.
Well, guess what, as pilots, especially pilots carrying passengers, we ARE accountable for our actions … and the entire premise of the act of flying an aircraft involves making constant decisions … i.e., judgments … about what to do and what not to do, and how and when to do or not do it. If a pilot cannot accept that responsibility, and shrugs it all off as “it just isn’t my day today” or “we all make mistakes so why bother?” then they need to get out of flying altogether. Take up golf or fishing or crochet or something else that is non-lethal.
We learn from reading and thinking about these accident reports and analyses, because that is the only effective way to absorb many of the lessons that we need to learn as pilots. Not for the purpose of besmirching any individual pilot, but so that we can learn his or her lesson WITHOUT repeating his or her fate, and the fate of their passengers.
That’s largely the purpose of Air Facts Journal itself .. to disseminate facts, encourage discussion and group learning, and as a result help us all avoid becoming the pilot in this or that accident, if that is indeed preventable, as most accidents are.
Guys, I clearly understand the noble intentions of this post and why this particular accident is so much disturbing, but in the same time, there are not enough details provided in the report, neither it contains any conclusions. What means, you have to make too many assumptions, and that what will put you into pure ranting, eventually. In other words, that’s not those story, where you can actually learn from.
I never said, we don’t need to read accident reports and do our own study, but why not to pick up those of them having full and clear description with all evidences available? Tragically, we have too many accidents, so there is a great choice…
Actually, I love how Air Safety Institute does that with their video series, so you don’t need to waste your time guessing what was going on there, in reality, and still learn a LOT!
And what can we find here? If’d tell you, for instance, that the passenger was directly involved in this accident, what will you learn from my assumption? Not to take any passengers cause they can easily get scared during the bad landing and grasp/block the controls, or maybe you should avoid having old-bold super-duper fellow in the right seat, who is extremely nervous too and yelling at you like crazy, cause you are doing ‘wrong’ things, or maybe that’s your family member and you let him/her fly the plane?
But there is zero information about the passenger so we can’t even reconstruct the possible relationship, and the pilot didn’t survive the accident, so he couldn’t tell us who was at the control during the approach (which looks a bit too rough for 300 hours pilot in a good wx). Do we really need to research the facts, which remain mysterious for the experts, who have been at the scene and gathered maximum details related to this story? I don’t think so.
And sorry, John, I didn’t mean to make you justifying yourself, my whole point is that we should take the correct approach when learning from other pilot’s mistakes.
With respect to your criticisms of this post:
1) This is a different format than the ASI multimedia slide shows … they’re very helpful, but provide no give and take between interested pilot commenters as does this format. Both formats are useful, it’s not a matter of we can only do it one way.
2) You mention that we don’t have enough details, but John provided the link to the NTSB final report synopsis in the very first paragraph, which I think most of us would take as an invitation to read it for ourselves and then we have a common base of information with which to discuss the case. If you didn’t go to the link, that’s your problem not John’s.
3) If you had read the NTSB report, then you would not have brought up the red herring “passenger’s involvement”. The NTSB report clearly stated that the accident pilot himself initially survived the accident and told a would-be rescuer that he was at the controls and, well, let me quote the report:
“When he arrived at the wreckage he saw the pilot on the ground so he began to question him. The pilot stated that he was flying in from Kentucky and that on his first attempt to land at 1C5, his speed was too fast so he decided to go-around and attempt the landing again. He then stated that as he was banking, he lost power and control of the airplane.”
None of that is to say that we know exactly what went on in that airplane cockpit, and what exactly the accident pilot did or what he was thinking. For one, he succumbed to his injuries which limited what could be learned. Since virtually no private light aircraft have Cockpit Voice Recorders or Flight Data Recorders (though some GPS equipped aircraft can provide a downloaded record of the aircraft’s path), most of these light aircraft accidents are limited to just the transcripts from ATC interactions, eyewitness reports (which are not necessarily reliable), weather data, and such.
But we can certainly read, react, and discuss what we DO know, which isn’t “nothing”.
Of course, I have read the report carefully before commenting here. Otherwise, how would I know that it doesn’t contain any probable cause data or valid findings at all?
The pilot statements doesn’t reveal anything either. All we know, he was at the controls at the go-around stage, and MOST LIKELY on the final leg too. That’s it! But we still have no idea what was his passenger doing at the time.
Also, there is no need to mention, that you can’t expect more or less full and reliable information from the person who is deeply shocked and fatally burned. If he had a chance to survive and recover, he might tell us completely different story rather than we imagine now using our personal experience and common sense, and there is no reason to refuse this version in advance.
And c’mon, you are already trying to explode my random theory, which is actually, nothing worse than anybody’s else (like “pilot was exhausted and wanted to pee urgently”). So, it makes me think I was right suspecting, that this series will work toward ordinary Internet disputes, rather than collecting and analyzing all possible contributing factors to learn from.
You talk about “ordinary internet disputes” yet insist on suggesting that the passenger had something to do with manipulating the controls and therefore may have been the cause of the accident, when there is zero mention of any evidence whatsoever in the NTSB report or in any other authoritative source that has been cited.
Speaking of internet disputes, I;’m prepared to mark yours down as “probable cause: trollling”.
Like I said, it was just a random version given as an example, silly. I may suggest any other possible factors instead, but I’m pretty sure, you won’t be happy with them either, cause you have already created your own picture.
And since you’ve ran out of all your arguments, Duane, the only thing you can do is to blame your opponent in “trolling”. I’m not surprised, cause you don’t have any other options, indeed ;-)
When visiting unfamiliar airports, I remind myself of the altitudes for the pattern to turn base and final. Like yesterday, I just extend the line for straight in and aim for “base turn” altitude around 3/4 mile, and “final turn” altitude at 1/2 mile. I also maintain pattern airspeed for the last mile of straight in approaches.
When flying into unattended fields, which are sometimes only a short slot in the trees, I confirm ASI vs. Groundspeed to check which way the wind is blowing. ATC led me into my first tailwind landing, it was very long, very uncomfortable and very directionally challenged. Then they switched and landed the next plane the other direction . . . Not something I would try on a 3300′ field, I ate up several thousand feet of pavement in ground effect.
This doesn’t make me invulnerable, but it does help me know if I am where I want to be or not, so that I can make corrections. Even VFR, all approaches do not result in a landing. Practicing go arounds is something we need to do, to stay proficient, just like ground reference maneuvers and pattern work. I generally make the go around call by short final; it’s pretty easy to tell if you are high, and the ASI will tell if you are too fast. Level off, add power, clean up, full power down the runway, climb out and do better the second time.
While I know this exercise is not intended to put blame, blame here is very well deserved. Who in his right mind will do a 1,300ft/min decent and land at 120kts?! This is 110% the pilots fault, he killed himself and his passenger with his bear hands. There was no fire, no emergency, just a long xc. And yes We all tend to land fast after a long XC, but at 120kts I’m going the hell around!
Liad – I’m all for making judgments about pilot actions, whether mine or someone else’s, as a learning exercise …. despite the discomfort that some pilots seem to have with that concept.
Yet, as I point out in a comment above, it is not uncommon at all for ATC to force slow (light) aircraft to stay high when transiting Class B or Class C airspace to get to their destination airport. Which then forces the pilot of said aircraft to make an unusually steep descent.
It happened to me all the time when I used to base my aircraft in a GA airport under the floor of Class C airspace. ATC might keep me as high as 10,000 MSL until only 5-6 miles from my airport (at 5,800 ft MSL). A 1,000-1,500 fpm descent rate was not an unusual profile that I had to follow after being released by ATC and handed off to the tower. In my hershey-bar wing Cherokee, it was easy enough to do. In some airplanes, that can be a big challenge.
In this particular accident, the pilot had to transit O’Hare’s Class B airspace to get to 1C5, his destination. The NTSB report made no mention of what ATC had required this pilot to do on his approach. So it is at least plausible that he was forced to make an escalator-like descent. His aircraft – a Cirrus SR20 – is a relatively slippery airplane, aerodynamically speaking, with relative long, skinny wings and smooth-finished composite airframe, unlike my fat-winged riveted Cherokee, so it doesn’t like to slow down as easily. The accident pilot was also a relatively low time pilot too so his stick and rudder skills may not have been all that great.
None of that is to excuse his actions, but the circumstances may explain his actions a bit. In that situation, of course, the correct action to take if the pilot had not bled off enough airspeed as he entered the pattern was to simply go around – make another round of the pattern to lose airspeed, and do it soon enough that it did not create a difficult-to-manage touch and go (though it’s only difficult if one hasn’t practiced the maneuver sufficiently to make it second nature).
Yes – the pilot is at fault, clearly. No other is to blame.
A part of the problem this pilot had, I believe, is due to the negative psychology concerning go-arounds – or missed approaches. Truthfully, a go-around is foreign to most any pilot’s psyche – something distasteful that comes with an embarrassing stigma. From day one of our primary instruction we’re taught that a normal traffic pattern circuit consist of a takeoff, a crosswind, a downwind, a base, and a final leg – followed by a smooth, picture-perfect touchdown no more than one-third down the runway. A go-around is mentioned only in negative terms – something we need to learn only in case we screw up. Well, nobody wants to screw up, nor deal with the consequences of a screw up – a go-around followed by a lot of seemingly good-natured (or not) ribbing from our fellow pilots. And face it, folks, we are not kind to each other. There is no brotherhood in aviation anymore (if there ever was). We can turn on each other like wild animals. So, we’ll do almost anything to avoid having to admit we messed up and execute a go-around. All this has to change. And the change begins inside of each of us, not in some legal-speak FAA regulation. So let each of us admit that we all make mistakes; any one of us can find himself in an unenviable fix of his own creation in about five seconds. The question is how do we extricate ourselves from those fixes? How do we get back into the ‘green’? Do we already know, or do we have to stretch and reach beyond our capabilities at the time? It’s long past the time to make the the term “go-around” a permanent item on the list of normal traffic pattern legs and maneuvers.
Dave, In strange way I think your post reinforces the negative connotations that are applied to the go around. Your post solely, and at length, talks about go arounds as if they’re only induced by pilot error.
I agree with the premise of your post, but maybe folks need to be reminded of some legit reasons for a go around that aren’t within the control of the PIC. In my own personal experience, I’ve had to make 6 go arounds, two were my error, but the other four:
– Canada Goose landed on runway in front of me when I was in the flare
– ATC instructed me to go around at 500 AGL due to traffic ahead unable to clear runway
– I initiated a go around from 300 AGL when another airplane taxied onto runway at uncontrolled field
– I went around from the flare when a sudden gust hit and began to drift me off the centreline and I didn’t have enough control authority to counteract
Not sure if this link will work here, but this is the go around I talked about in my post:
Disregard that first link, it’s the wrong one. This is the correct link:
Dave – Your perspective seems to be one of someone who was taught wrongly that go-arounds are an admission of guilt, so to speak, of poor piloting. Sounds like you were victimized by poor flight instruction or poor flight mentors.
I learned to fly 39 years ago, taught by a professional CFI, highly experienced, not a kid timebuilder just waiting til he got an air carrier job. He taught me that a go around is one of the most fundamental flight maneuvers that any pilot must be prepared to execute any time the landing doesn’t look right. I’ve had to do a number of them over the years, and because I practice them they happen without conscious thought once the alarm bell goes off somewhere in my head. And I have never ever felt the slightest embarrassment or twinge of guilt for having saved myself and the airplane. Whether the underlying issue was a misjudged approach, poor stick and rudder manipulation. or a sudden windshear mere feet from touching down.
Every time I fly I make mistakes, some of them dumber than others. We all do that. And sometimes nature rears up and bites us in the a** even when we’re not doing dumb things. Being prepared to recover smartly without damage to either souls or sheet metal is one of the most valuable flight skills we can build.
For me the lessons of this accident are:
1. The importance of proper planning (especially at the end of a long leg)
2. Willingness to abort an approach at any point, whether at 2 miles or in the flare
3. Proficiency (I.e., balked landings, etc.)
To me, flying into an unfamiliar airport really should never be a good reason for flight safety being jeopardized. Again, it comes down to proper planning, and all that means (advance planning on the ground, proper prep prior to leaving cruise…).
If you keep John’s ending list in mind when responding, then you will like most learn or remind yourself of the things to be gained from this excercise.
1. Yes it can happen to anyone who is not totally focused on the task at hand. Plan, focus, and execute….distractions may be at hand, but you must do your best.
2. Speculation, shich can lead to blame, does no good. Given the information presented, and keeping it simple, what might you do or have done.
3. It reminds me to always focus on the task. Set up a good approach and do not be afraid to go around. I personally will not hesitate to go around if it is looking bad. I went around 2 times after a 3 plus hour flight. Once caused wind switch to a different runway during gusty conditions, second caused by miss interpreting the crosswind above the flare. I was tired and hot, plus fighting the “got to get it on the ground” urge. This was at my home airport.
Two other things…I do not, unless absolutely necessary, land down wind….and I have a strict rule about “if not down in the first third of the runway go around, period”.
An added thought from my observations of many different pilots landing: It appears that many have become complacent and do not pick the same point of landing on every runway, i.e. top of the numbers, first stripe, etc. You need to consistently pick and aim for the point of landing on downwind leg before turning base. And, it doesn’t matter if it is 2000 feet long or 10,000 feet long use the same spot every runway as a target (and yes you could site many exceptions, but for most, those would not apply).
First, know that I am not a high time pilot. Second, my usual flying is in an Ercoupe, and southwest Ohio/ s.e. Indiana is not at all like Chicago!
Still, it looks a lot like too steep a descent, too fast – into a new field, it seems. Local knowledge – the wind around the big boxes? – can count for a lot, too. And, how much time did he have in the Cirrus? Add to that that he may not have a lot of comfort with places like Chicago – I don’t! Thus, my tendency to stay clear of such places.
Last – even if uncomfortable with a new field, it’s always good to be ready to go around! That’s my bottom line, on the landing checklist.
My question is very simple,
Are you given the control wheel of a complicated Formula one car at an old man with just a new permit to drive ? The normal answer is NO.
PPL at 63 years old and 350 hrs seems to me stupid in a SR 22 fully fit out with complicated electronics.
You may be right. You may be wrong. It seems possible to me that the SR22 wasn’t probably the best choice for this pilot. But I know people aged 70+ who are pretty easy with this stuff.
I think, the main issue here was (as I wrote in my own article) that he was indecisive on what to do when he found out something wasn’t right. The final speed was way too high – the airplane did get ahead of him without noticing.
Remember the old ‘Doctor Killer’ description that was applied to an aircraft that was fast but tended to be flown by guys who could afford to buy it but didn’t know how to really fly it, often doctors? That description used to be applied to a Bonanza or a Baron, these days it is being applied more and more to the Cirrus for all the some reasons.
Ah, c’mon you guys! If you’v earned your pilot credentials, you’ve done so many touch-and-goes during your early training that you must almost have lost patience with them And, after all, they’re close cousins to any go around. So why either a reluctance or any trepidation about a go around? After all, pretty much the same techniques and principles are required, aren’t they?
I recall an IFR night flight from Belize to the island of Cozumel, in Mexico. Cancun was controlled by a remote facility at Cancun, on the mainland. My heavily loaded C-206 amphibian was given the 10-mile arc, Runway 29 approach, and when appropriate, I notified Cancun that I was turning onto the final approach course. I was on a very short final, with the gear down, the prop flat, the mixture full rich, and trimmed for the landing when every light on the airport went out! That airplane, and its load, required a bit of doing to execute the missed approach, and as soon as I had settled all those matters, Cancun came back to ask my position. When I told him, he quickly apologized and the lights suddenly all came back on. Such truly surprising environment changes do happen but – – – what’s the big deal? As a good friend of mine was wont to say, “Ain’t no big deal!” And, in the end, it’s just another part of flying that may be temporarily inconvenient, but nothing more. And no more difficult . . .
Mort – I think you hit on it … there are apparently quite a few private pilots who never practice go-arounds or touch’n-go landings unless forced to during a BFR. I’ve known some pilots myself who admitted to me that they never do anything but take off, fly point A to point B, and land. No practice on any form of maneuvering flight (“stalls are too scary for me”), steep turns, and no go-arounds … ever. I determined that I would not fly with folks like that again.
The main error I (as a Pilot) see is: He didn’t fly the airplane. The airplane was getting way ahead of him. And when he found out (very late, probably during landing) he was indecisive on what to do…
– Speed was 50% too high (117kts vs 80kts final speed)
– He bounced the “landing”
– the go-around was not carried out correctly.
– The tailwind issue may have been an adding factor… if unsure: SAY NO.
One of those errors would maybe not have a problem and may have caused only minor (if any) damage. Bot all of them give a deadly combination.
Maybe the aircraft was too complex for him, too. I remember when going from the C152 to the C172 with the Garmin 1000. Much more stuff to set up – and much more chances to really bugger the setup – Too much gadgets can get into your way. It takes time and you need to practice quite a lot to stay ahead of the airplane even if some component goes wrong.
In general: If you’re unfamiliar with an airport, be twice as cautious. You can always extend (for safety). You can always do a go-around. But, and this is the most important Thing my FI tought me: FLY THE AIRPLANE, DON’T EVER LET THE AIRPLANE FLY YOU.
Even if this could mean that someone from the ATC shouts at you after a landing: If you can receive the shouting you at least survived. I have had cases where I negatived the routing / approach given by ATC because it simply didn’t feel safe to me (heavy plane and tailwind, not too much power – and possibly a problem climbing out at a go-around).
You may get into an argument with your ATC, but as long as you’re legal – what can they do?
What? Not study the mistakes of others who crashed? Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Excellent article to remind all of us the importance of stick and rudder skills and staying ahead of our airplanes. Or you have the right to stick your heads in the sand. Good pilots know better. See https://www.amazon.com/Air-Crashes-Richard-L-Collins-ebook/dp/B003TFETNM
Tarbal (post at the top of the thread) nailed it. Paraphrased ‘the airplane flew itself’ for the entire trip from 100’ above the departure airport until the pilot likely realized he was way too high and dove for the numbers … hence the 117 kt ground speed. This Cirrus pilot had LOGGED 350 hours, but ‘logged’ and flying are two entirely different things. We should recall the ill fated Air France flight off the coast of Brazil or the Asiana crackup at KSFO. Both aircrews had tens of thousands of logged hours, but very little actual “flight” time acrued flying their aircraft. Add the tailwind (slight, but complicating), an adequate – but not generous – runway, mix in some fatigue and perhaps a conversation with the passenger and the outcome could (and did) result in bad news for their surviving kin.