During flight training, students spend a lot of time practicing maneuvers, some of which they believe they will never use in "real life."
On September 30, 2005, the pilot of a Cessna 150M attempted a go-around on a dark night at the Copiah County Airport in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Unfortunately, he and his passenger were killed in the ensuing crash.
The pilot of the Cessna activated the pilot-controlled lighting and entered the downwind leg for Runway 17. A commercial pilot on the field said the downwind and base legs appeared normal, but that the Cessna appeared to be too high and too fast on final. The airplane continued to descend with reduced engine power. About halfway down the runway, the Cessna was still at an altitude "about twice the height of the adjacent trees." The witness heard the engine power increase, followed shortly by the sound of impact.
The wreckage was found about 422 feet southwest of the end of Runway 17 in a near vertical position. Both the left and right flaps were found in their fully extended, 40-degree positions.
The non-instrument-rated private pilot had accumulated 141 hours since earning his certificate two years earlier, including 10 in the last month, and 19 in a Cessna 150. He had nine hours of night experience, 15 in simulated instrument conditions, and two in actual instrument conditions.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's failure to retract the flaps during go-around and his failure to maintain airspeed, which resulted in an inadvertent stall. A factor was the "dark night conditions."
The procedure for a go-around in this model of Cessna 150 calls for a partial flap retraction (to 20 degrees) after full power is applied, then full flap retraction after reaching a safe airspeed.
According to the POH, to retract the flaps on this model Cessna "...place the flap switch in the UP position. The switch will remain in the UP position without manual assistance due to an over-center design of the switch. Full flap retraction in flight requires approximately six seconds. More gradual flap retraction can be accomplished by intermittent operation of the flap switch to the UP position."
Although procedures vary depending on the aircraft, most checklists require that the flaps be retracted to about the halfway point for go-arounds. Given the added pressure of executing the go-around at night, this private pilot may have been in over his head.
To learn more about going around successfully, read Bruce Landsberg's "Going, Going, Going Around" from the September 1996 issue of AOPA Pilot.
Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.
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