July 13, 2012
Conventional wisdom pounded home to generations of pilots states that if a landing doesn’t look or feel right, go around!
Too often that’s where the discussion ends. What’s the next step?
The answer isn’t always a second attempt to land on the same runway. But if that is the call, the pilot should use the extra time to regain any lost composure, and then focus on clearly understanding why things didn’t go as planned.
Second attempts also demand caution, as a recent overrun accident on a private runway may illustrate.
Faced with landing on a moderately short, narrow, grass runway, a Navion pilot did the prudent thing by flying over to survey the situation before an aborted attempt to land, according to a preliminary report.
But the second landing attempt also failed. After touchdown around the runway's mid-point, braking did not slow the aircraft sufficiently to stop on the landing surface. Now out of position for a go-around, the pilot's remaining option was to use an overrun area.
But, “the long grass concealed a 20- to 30-foot steep slope. The airplane exited the end of the runway, went down the slope, crossed a gravel road and impacted small trees,” the report states.
There was one important piece of data about the private airstrip unavailable to the pilot, who later realized that “the runway had a significant down slope which he could not identify during his flyover prior to landing.”
How much of a factor is that?
“Here is a rule of thumb: For every 1 degree of upslope, add 10 percent to your takeoff roll. Or add 10 percent to your landing roll when touching down on a 1-degree down-sloping runway,” said the Sept. 24, 2004, “Training Tip: Runway Gradient.” It also reminded pilots that performance charts provided in their pilot's operating handbooks are based on level, dry runways, both for paved and unpaved surfaces.
A second try to land is one of the scenarios that can make a pilot feel pressured to get down now, regardless of the consequences. But just as there is no law that says that a controlled flight must be completed on the first landing attempt, the same is true for the second—especially if the problem that caused the original go-around (for example, touching down too far down a short runway) has not been remedied.
Want some additional insights into landings? View the recorded Air Safety Institute Webinar, “Takeoffs and Landings: The Expert Approach.”
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Question: Do the federal aviation regulations or Aeronautical Information Manual state the proper altitude to begin your turn from the departure leg to the crosswind leg when remaining in the pattern? My instructor told me it is the traffic pattern altitude for the particular airport, minus 300 feet. Is that just good advice or does it come from a regulation?
Answer: This has long been a topic of hangar conversations. According to the Aeronautical Information Manual Chapter 4 Section 3, “Airport Operations,” the departure leg is defined as “the flight path which continues straight ahead along the extended runway centerline and continues until reaching a point at least one-half mile beyond the departure end of the runway and within 300 feet of the traffic pattern altitude.” The crosswind leg is “a flight path at right angles to the landing runway off its takeoff end.” So the AIM recommendation agrees with your flight instructor’s good advice to turn onto the crosswind leg once the departure leg is completed, which is 300 feet below pattern altitude.
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