Bad landings


When things aren’t going well on the approach or during the early stages of landing it is often best to overshoot and try again.

We tend to have a mindset that we are going to land and even though we see all sorts of clues that landing may not be a good idea, we try to do it anyway. The result is often not pretty.

The crew of a Beech King Air 200 circled the runway twice to assess its condition and elected to proceed with a visual approach to runway 32. The aircraft touched down approximately half way down the runway, 8 to 10 feet to the left of the centreline. Reverse thrust was selected to slow the aircraft and the aircraft veered to the left and off the runway.
The crew had concerns about the runway condition and yet elected to continue even though they would land very long and left of the centreline.

A Diamond DA 40 pilot was following a Dash 8-400 aircraft on final. The pilot decided to land farther down the runway than did the Dash 8 and carried an extra 5 knots to his approach speed. The aircraft bounced on landing and then began to porpoise. The pilot continued with the landing resulting in a prop strike.

The wake turbulence procedure was correct, but his addition of the 5 knots on short final may have been ill advised. He tried to force the aircraft onto the runway with the extra speed and bounced. He then tried to force the landing again and ended up in a porpoise. The recovery from a porpoise is to move the control column full aft and add full power to go around. Holding a porpoising aircraft on the runway is a sure way to damage it. He was lucky that he got away with just a prop strike.

The pilot of the Challenger II Ultralight, was conducting an approach to a private airstrip. During the final stages of the approach, the aircraft's landing speed was high. The aircraft made firm contact with the strip, bounced heavily, drifted right and then crashed into the trees. The pilot was not injured, but the aircraft was substantially damaged.

The pilot was hot on final and attempted to force the aircraft onto the runway anyway, resulting in the bounce. Drift was then allowed to creep in as the pilot continued to try to land the aircraft.

The pilot of a Yakovlev Yak-18T aircraft was landing on Runway 19. The aircraft touched down a little faster and further down the runway than usual. The pilot was unable to stop the aircraft before the runway end and it continued a short distance onto the grass.

This particular runway is only 2,100 feet long and the pilot was familiar with it. Long landings are a no-no and a hot and long landing just won’t work for this aircraft and many other aircraft.

The pilot of a float-equipped Cessna 180D aircraft was landing at an unoccupied outpost camp to service the camp for winter shutdown. The approach was conducted into the sun and after touchdown, the glare prevented the pilot from seeing the rapidly approaching shoreline. The aircraft ran up onto the boulders on the shoreline, substantially damaging the aircraft.

Why would a pilot approach into the sun if he didn’t have to? There is no mention in the accident report that wind was a factor. He most likely did what he was used to doing, landing toward the dock despite the sun-in-the-eyes conditions.
Mindset is our greatest enemy when landing. We get so focused on getting the job done that we miss the clues that tell us that things are not going well. If we are honest with ourselves, we have all been guilty of this. We have just been lucky and didn’t bend the bird.

Complacency is a big factor in this type of accident. We have safely landed on this runway or lake many times before, so even if the approach is not perfect, we can handle it.

Even experienced pilots operating in a two crew environment are susceptible to the ‘we are going to land’ mindset. Good cockpit resource management (CRM) procedures should have had the pilot-not-flying speaking up and suggesting a missed approach.

When flying with a friend, we sometimes should speak up and advise an alternate course of action. It is difficult to do in any case but especially if the aircraft belongs to the friend flying. It may however, save him or her a lot of money and heartache, and maybe save both of your lives.

CRM for single pilot operations is being pushed by Transport Canada for commercial operations. Based on the success of CRM for multi crew operation overall, it is a good idea. It may be a good idea for private pilots as well.

The possibility of an overshoot should be in the back of our minds on every approach and landing. Even when we are on speed, on glide path and on centreline, something can go wrong. A bird, rabbit, coyote or whatever can surprise us. We should be ready for any surprise and not be so committed to landing.

Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently flies medevacs from Victoria in a Lear 25. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.

Got an aviation safety story to tell? Dale Nielsen would like to hear from pilots who have educational aviation experiences to relate. Excerpts from these stories will be used in upcoming safety articles. Dale can be contacted via e-mail: