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Air Safety Institute Safety Spotlight

Personality quirks

Every CFI understands that his or her teaching style has to match the way a student thinks. Here's another stylistic fact: Airplanes have personalities, too.

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 airplane sustained substantial damage.

The pilot had earned his private pilot certificate four months before the accident. All but seven of his 78 total hours were in a DA-20 Katana; he had logged 6.1 hours in the 172, including 3.7 hours of dual instruction.

The pilot had completed two successful touch and goes before the accident. On the third landing, however, the 172 rolled a short distance after touchdown, veered sharply to the right, and nosed over in soft terrain.

A CFI from the pilot's flight school flew with him the day after the accident and 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 added, "The differences between a Katana and a Cessna are night and day."

The NTSB determined that this accident was caused by the pilot's failure to execute a proper landing flare, which resulted in an improper touchdown attitude and subsequent loss of control. A factor was the difference between landing characteristics of the Katana and the Cessna 172, and the resulting habit interference for the pilot.

Most pilots complete their private pilot training in one make and model of aircraft. The habits they develop for that aircraft can cause problems during transition to a different aircraft. When checking out in a new airplane, ensure that you understand the nuances of that aircraft. It's also important as instructors to convey these differences to students. Make sure that they understand the differences between what they're accustomed to, and what they are learning.

For more information about landings, order the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings DVD, and download the accompanying Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings Safety Advisor from the AOPA Online Safety Center.

Kristen Hummel manages the GA accident database for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. She holds a commercial pilot certificate with multiengine and instrument ratings.

By Kristen Hummel

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