The last thing an instrument pilot wants to do after flying an approach in weather, or at night, is to have to miss, or abort the landing because of a glitch or systems malfunction.
So there was pressure when a Socata TB20 Trinidad pilot could not activate the runway lights on the common traffic advisory frequency during an instrument approach to Hilton Head, South Carolina, Nov. 25, 2014.
Fortunately, the approach path indicator lights were visible. Although the approach was “high and long,” the pilot continued and landed—resulting in the single-engine airplane rolling off the end and striking a sign.
Rolling off the end of what?
It emerged that the Trinidad had landed on a taxiway, and “a test of the airport’s pilot-controlled lighting system revealed no anomalies.”
NTSB investigators concluded that the pilot must have set an incorrect CTAF frequency, then continued the approach “in dark night conditions despite having not positively identified the runway environment.”
Beware those high and fast approaches—even without dark night conditions and a mistuned radio. On Nov. 20, 2014, air traffic control advised the pilot of a Beech Baron twin on approach in San Antonio, Texas, of “rain on the airport,” and issued circle-to-land instructions.
“A witness reported observing the airplane halfway down the runway and still airborne. The airplane subsequently touched down, ran off the end of the runway, and went through a barrier fence before coming to a stop on a service road,” recounted the NTSB’s accident summary.
The pilot thought the Baron’s brakes had failed. “However, the brakes were subsequently tested and operated normally. Examination of the runway revealed evidence of hydroplaning,” the report said.
It added, “When informed by the local controller that it was raining at the airport, the pilot should have realized that hydroplaning was a possibility and ensured that the airplane touched down near the approach end of the runway to maximize the available landing distance.”
Cases like these offer a wakeup call for instrument pilots who fall into the training rut of breaking off most practice approaches at minimums to save time and fuel.
Granted, it’s probably wasteful of time and resources to touch down from every stabilized, straight-in ILS approach you practice. But when taking on more challenging approach scenarios, complete the landing, recognizing that executing the approach offers little reward if it doesn’t get you on the ground.