For a CFI, signing a student off for solo flight is one of the most trying tasks that they must accomplish during a student's training. Requirements for student solo flight are outlined in FAR 61.87, but for the most part, giving a student permission to fly solo is largely a judgment call on the part of the instructor. The following accidents prove the need for CFI's to ensure their students are ready to react quickly and resolve any issues that might arise during their first few flights alone.
On April 8, 2002, a 27-hour student pilot and his instructor completed twelve trips around the pattern together at the McKinney, Texas Municipal Airport. The instructor then exited the Cessna 172 for the student's first solo flight. According to the student, during the third touch and go, the airplane "flared more than usual." The student added power, but the nose wheel struck the runway causing the airplane to bounce between four and six times before stopping, causing damage to the firewall and floorboards. The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the student pilot's failure to recover from a bounced landing, which resulted in the airplane porpoising. A factor in the accident was the student's improper flare.
New London Airport in Forest, Virginia was the site of another training accident on May 8, 2002. The 32-hour student was conducting her second solo flight in a Cessna 152. According to the student, she had made four uneventful full-stop landings. On the fifth, she flared high and landed hard. The 152 began to porpoise, veered to the left, and nosed over. The student did not add power or attempt a go-around. The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the student pilot's improper flare and failure to recover from a bounced landing.
A 35-hour student flying a Cessna 152 lost control after a hard landing in gusty conditions at West Houston Airport on May 9, 2002. According to the CFI, he and the student had completed four touch and go landings and an approach that included a go-around. The CFI then exited the airplane for the student's fifth solo flight. The student completed the first touch and go without any problems. On her second approach, she noted that her airspeed was high, and attempted to slow the airplane. The student reported encountering gusty winds on short final, and "panicked." According to the student, a downdraft "slammed the airplane onto the runway with both main gear." The airplane bounced two times, and the nose gear collapsed. The 152 came to rest inverted on the right side of the runway. The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the student pilot's improper recovery from a bounced landing, which resulted in a nose over.
According to ASI's Special Report on Flight Instruction Safety, over 60 percent of all student accident occur during takeoff or landing, and 36 percent of all students involved in takeoff and landing accidents have between 21 and 40 hours of experience. These statistics underscore the important role CFI's play teaching primary students. Tips and tricks for safer takeoffs and landings can be found in ASI's Safety Advisor, the Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings, and the new video series, Takeoffs and Landings.
This accident report as well as others can be found in ASI's Online Database.