CAA accident report executive summary: Cessna 210G

Date of accident: November 20 1999

Time of accident: 1215Z

Aircraft registration: ZS-ETX

Type of aircraft: Cessna 210G

Pilot-in-command licence type: PPL

Pilot-in-command flying experience: Total Flying Hours:
46.7 (civil), 2740.3 (military)

Hours on Type: 5.2

Last point of departure: Air Force Base Swartkop (near Pretoria)

Next point of intended landing: Entabeni Game Reserve

Location of accident site: On the North Eastern Runway at Entabeni Game Reserve

Meteorological information: Weather was fine with calm wind conditions

No. of people on board: 1+4

No. of people injured: 0

No. of people killed: 0

The pilot approached the runway but did not flare the aircraft enough during the landing, resulting in a hard touchdown at about 50 metres after the threshold. The aircraft ballooned and touched down again at about 130 metres after the threshold. The nose landing gear departed from the aircraft at 165 metres from the threshold of the runway after another bounce. The aircraft eventually came to a standstill at 200 metres from the threshold of the runway.

The propeller and the left wing tip contacted the ground, but no one was injured.

Due to poor technique during the approach and landing the aircraft was landed excessively hard.

Jim’s analysis
I find this one pretty scary. Very broadly, pilots are meant to do three totally separate things: make intelligent decisions; conform to procedures; and handle the controls smoothly and effectively. This guy failed on all counts. He should have decided to do a go-around, the correct procedure was to take full power and climbed away, and he should not have been so rough on the controls that he broke the aeroplane. Initially I thought this very strange.

Here we have a 45-year-old military pilot who has been around aeroplanes for 20 or 30 years. He has been well-selected, and well-trained – because that’s what the Air Force does. How does such a pilot make so many horrible mistakes? Let’s look carefully at what he did.

1. He failed to round out properly. My guess is that he was used to bigger and wider airfields. In other words, during the approach he was waiting for the runway to get bigger and wider before starting his round out.

2. He hit the ground hard, nosewheel first. The aeroplane didn’t bounce or balloon; he got a fright and yanked the stick back, increased the angle of attack and they flew again.

3. He got another fright, didn’t want to stall, so he pushed the nose down and smote the planet again, then yanked it off and pushed it down again. This treatment broke the aeroplane.

This has nothing to do with bouncing, and everything to do with the pilot alternately pulling it off the ground and pushing it down again. It’s a thing that pilots do – not aeroplanes - and a pilot of his experience must have done it during his training.

So why didn’t he do what we all know he should have done - taken a handful of throttle and gone around? I may have the answer. When a military pilot does a type conversion it is serious business. In short, he will be totally competent on type. Civvies simply don’t do that, and to make matters worse, newish instructors are often intimidated by experienced military or airline pilots, so they tend to skimp on conversions.

The bottom line is this pilot was simply not properly trained for the job at hand.

What can we learn?

• Total hours don’t always mean much.

• If you do a type conversion,  make sure you feel totally happy with it. It is your call.

• Beware of illusions caused by going from a big, wide runway to a narrow country strip.

• We cause aeroplanes to alternately fly and hit the ground. We generally do it by approaching too fast - the wheels touch while we still have flying speed.

• What should you do about it? As you sail into the air calmly level the nose and smoothly apply full power, and enough right rudder to keep straight. When you have sufficient speed you raise the nose into the climbing attitude and go away to think about your sins at a sensible altitude. Do your landing checks again and return for another go round.

• Pat yourself on the back for the go-around. Good dog, Spot.

Jim Davis has 15,000 hours of immensely varied flying experience, including 10,000 hours civil and military flying instruction. He is an established author, his current projects being an instructors’ manual and a collection of Air Accident analyses, called Choose Not To Crash. Visit Jim's website by clicking here.

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