Friday, February 27, 2015

Don't Have A Bad Day, So Don't Land On the Nose Wheel.....

If you touch down on the nose wheel first, you have a good chance of causing serious damage. Depending on factors such as speed and weight, the nose gear might collapse and then who knows what. The prop will be damaged, probably the engine and fuselage. You certainly will have a bad day.

Reading in Aviation Safety* that 40% of accidents are landing gear related, would help explain why I see it mentioned so often. I couldn’t find the stats on how many “bad” landings were of the nose wheel type. But I think way too many. Causes include: poor training, excess speed, short fields etc. When a pilot comes in high and fast and tries to force the landing, that’s the setting for gear and particularly nose wheel damage. Another bad scenario can occur when a stiff cross wind is present. Trying to force a plane, particularly a high wing type like a 150 or a 172, can be the setting for serious gear trouble.That’s when one reads about gear breakages, flips or rolls or worse. The only way to prevent these type of accidents is to train properly, using an instructor when needed.

I have a flight in my first log book, that I’m not proud of. I was flying a Cessna single, either a 172 or a 182, into Nedrow Airpark, NY38. This was a 2100 foot strip of asphalt, aligned 3/21, with 50 foot trees at the north end. I was a relatively low time private pilot, in my first year of medical school in nearby Syracuse. I had arranged to meet an old friend there and was anxious to get together. The wind was out of the southwest and a bit gusty so I decided on a runway 21 landing. The only problem was a 50 foot tree at the north end . Instead of doing a trial pattern of this small field, I rushed things a bit. Worried about the trees at the north  end I came in a bit high, but also slightly fast. The combination was disastrous. At midfield I was just barely able to touch down. I “stood” on the brakes, but I couldn’t slow the plane enough to prevent it from going over the far end into a tree, that did stop me. I was lucky and had no serious injury, just a bruise. The plane however received serious damage to engine  fuselage, and nose gear. I was very glad it was insured.

I am happy to say that was my only airplane accident, other than slightly scratching the outer wing tip of a plane while taxiing. So, fellow pilots, practice your landings often, and pay particular attention to speed and whether it is a two or three wheel affair. If it is a three wheeler, be gentle on the nose wheel  or be prepared for a big bill.

* (Why can’t we land?)

P.S. Comments welcome!