Plane & Pilot
Monday, August 1, 2005

Turbulent Times

Grappling with gusting winds during landings

Piper PA-28-180
On October 2, 2004, a Piper PA-28-180 was landing at Marion, Iowa, after a flight from Moline, Ill. Day-VFR conditions prevailed. On his first approach to runway 17 at the Marion Airport, the pilot encountered what he later described as “choppy” turbulence and decided to go around. During the second approach, the airplane again encountered the turbulence, and the pilot requested and initiated another go-around.

The pilot told investigators, “Immediately, it felt like a gust of wind went under my right wing and belly, and just started pushing me over to the left. I immediately applied right rudder and aileron as hard as I could and tried to push the nose down, but there was no response.”

The pilot said he “didn’t have a chance to put flaps back up or try to cut power.” He also said that the airplane went “up and over” and hit an airport hangar. The pilot theorized that it’s possible that the passenger inadvertently stomped on the rudder pedals during the go-around. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Shortly after the accident, the recorded observation showed the wind from 200 degrees at 15 knots gusting to 19 knots. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s inadequate compensation for the gusting wind conditions and his failure to maintain aircraft control. Factors in the accident were the encountered turbulence, the gusting wind and the airport hangar.

Cessna 185F
On October 1, 2004, a Cessna 185F was performing touch-and-go landings on runway 20 at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport in Santa Fe, N.M. The pilot told investigators that during one of the landing rolls, he encountered a wind gust from the left, which “weather-cocked the plane to about 15 degrees left of centerline.” He applied power and full right rudder, but was unable to straighten the airplane. He reduced engine power and applied brakes. The airplane groundlooped to the left, followed by the right wing and elevator impacting the runway surface. The right wing spar and aileron were bent, and the right elevator was crushed. The pilot was uninjured. The weather observation taken about two minutes after the accident recorded the wind as being from 150 degrees at seven knots with gusts to 15 knots. The calculated crosswind component would have been from seven to 12 knots. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control during the landing roll, resulting in a groundloop. Contributing to the accident was the crosswind.

Cessna 172N
The pilot was a flight instructor, held a commercial certificate for single-engine land airplanes and was instrument-rated. He had logged 740 flight hours. He went on a day-VFR local flight in the Hillsboro, N.D., area, using a Cessna 172N rented from a flying club. During landing on runway 16, the airplane veered off the runway and nosed over. Although the airplane was substantially damaged, the pilot was uninjured. A weather observation recorded at Grand Forks, N.D., about 28 nm north of the accident site, showed winds from 130 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 21 knots. The Safety Board’s report quoted the Cessna 172N’s Information Manual as placing the maximum demonstrated crosswind velocity for takeoff or landing the airplane at 15 knots. The NTSB didn’t have a record of winds at the accident location. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was directional control not obtained and maintained by the pilot during the landing roll.


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