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Experienced pilots understand the nuances associated with learning to fly a new aircraft, but for inexperienced pilots, old habits die hard. On April 19, 2001, the pilot of a Cessna 172 learned this when he lost control while landing at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California. The pilot was not injured, but the plane sustained substantial damage.
The pilot received his private pilot certificate four months before the accident. He had 78 hours total time at the time of the accident, 71 of which were in a DA-20 Katana. The pilot had logged 6.1 hours in the 172, of which 3.7 were dual.
Prior to the accident, the pilot had completed two successful touch-and-go landings. On the third landing, the 172 touched down, rolled a short distance, and then veered sharply to the right. The plane then nosed over in soft terrain.
A CFI from the pilot's flight school flew with him the day after the accident, and he observed that the pilot had a tendency to land very flat. He also stated that the "...landing characteristics of the Katana require little or no flare by the pilot. In contrast, the Cessna 172 requires a considerable amount of flare to achieve a proper touchdown attitude." He went on to say, "In general, the differences between a Katana and a Cessna are night and day."
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the failure of the pilot in command to execute a proper landing flare, which resulted in an improper touchdown attitude and subsequent loss of control. A factor in the accident was the difference between landing characteristics of the Katana and the Cessna 172, and the resulting habit interference for the pilot.
The transition to a new airplane is difficult, but not impossible. Most pilots complete their private pilot training in one aircraft. They develop habits that work well for that aircraft, but may cause problems during transition to a different aircraft. When checking out in a new airplane, it's important to ensure that you understand the nuances of that aircraft. It's also important for instructors to convey this to students. Make sure they understand the differences between what they know and what they are learning.
For more information about landings, watch ASI's online safety video series, Takeoffs and Landings, and download the accompanying Safety Advisor online.
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