Date of accident: August 3 1997

Time of accident: 1300Z

Aircraft registration: ZS-EAC

Type Of aircraft: Beech V35B Bonanza

Pilot-in-command licence type:

Pilot-in-command flying experience: Total Flying Hours: 506

Hours on Type: 182

Last point of departure: Upington

Next point of intended landing: Beaufort West

Location of the accident site: On the beach at Port Shepstone

Meteorological information: Fine but windy

Number of people on board:

Number of people injured: 0

Number of people killed: 0

The pilot claimed that he obtained a weather report from Cape Town weather office for a flight from Upington to Beaufort West. He said the surface wind was predicted as 25 miles per hour gusting 30 miles per hours, but when he arrived at Beaufort West the surface wind was gusting 50 to 60 miles per hour.

During the landing the pilot experienced these gusting conditions and according to him the aircraft, “fell out of the air”. It hit the runway and became airborne again. The aircraft then stalled and crashed nose down onto the runway.

The information gathered during the investigation suggests that the illustrated crosswind component of the aircraft was exceeded during the landing in these conditions.

The pilot of the aircraft attempted to land the aircraft at Beaufort West aerodrome while the surface wind conditions were in excess of the operation limitations of the aircraft.

Jim’s analysis
This pilot was way out of his depth, but he put himself there. He allowed the reason for his mission - whatever that was - to interfere with his reason. Then he didn’t have the skill to handle the situation he had put himself into.

No one said he had to land at Beaufort West in those vile conditions. He could have gone somewhere else, unless he had compounded his problem by being short of fuel. There are at least three airfields within half an hour that he could have used instead of facing Beaufort’s violent wind.

It’s easy to understand the pilot’s side of the story. He had probably been in turbulence for most of the two hour flight from Upington - and a V-tail Bonanza doesn’t handle well in turbulence. It wags its tail and makes everyone feel sick. Also, and the pilot whould have known this, at the last count an amazing total of some 240 Bonanzas have broken up in the air. So we can understand that he was keen to get on the ground.

His judgement was clouded by a huge dollop of get-there-itis.

Also I am having a bit of trouble with the story that the aircraft, “...stalled and crashed nose down onto the runway”. I am guessing now, but I would say you are going to lose between 50 and 100ft in a stall before the nose gets below the horizon. So the aeroplane would have to have been around the height of a five-story building when it stalled! How did a 500-hour pilot let it get up there without taking a fist full of power and flying away?

Something doesn’t sound right. I suspect the aircraft bounced fairly high and the pilot pushed the stick forward. But it doesn’t matter - he was doing his best under very difficult conditions. I know - I have flown that same 60mph wind at Beaufort, but in a Piper Cub! A violent wind comes off those mountains.

A final thought. With any V-tail you run out of either elevator or rudder. Think about this: If you pull the stick back both flappy things move up, OK? And if you use full rudder (either way) one moves up and the other down. So a V-tail cannot accommodate both full elevator and full rudder. In that sort of turbulence you could easily be wanting both and not getting the control authority you need.

What can we learn?
• Never let your judgement put you in a place that makes excessive demands on your skills.

• Never let your judgement put the aircraft in a place outside its operating limits.

• Just about the worst thing you can say to yourself is, “I’m going to bloody well get this thing on the ground”. Rather say, “I’m going to go down for a look-see. If I don’t like it I’ll go round again”. The whole world applauds a pilot who has the sense to do a go-round.

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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