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Why it pays to go-around

A hard landing of a Maule MT-7-235 aircraft at Greenfields airstrip near Noosa in Queensland on 16 May 2016 highlights why it’s important for pilots to conduct a go-around when in doubt.

Maule MT-7 aircraft, VH-DRS, near Noosa, Qld

The requirement for three take-offs and three landings in the last 90 days is a regulatory requirement for pilot currency, but this does not guarantee pilot proficiency. Pilots need to be ‘go-around prepared’ because the execution of a go-around is an infrequent manoeuvre.

The pilot had flown about five flights, totalling about 20 hours in the previous 12 months and the pilot’s last flight was about four-to-five weeks prior to the accident flight.

When flying infrequently, proficiency in take-offs and landings can be improved by dedicating a portion of the flight to practicing circuits, including go-arounds. The United States Federal Aviation Administration describes this as ‘imbuing the quantity of flying, however limited, with quality.’

The Maule pilot conducted a private flight from Greenfields with two passengers on board. After a trip that included a re-fuel at Gympie, the flight headed north towards Maryborough before returning to Greenfields along a coastal route.

On final approach to Greenfields, the pilot noticed they were getting low. At about 500 ft, they increased the power to regain their approach path. The pilot subsequently assessed that the aircraft was too high and lowered the nose to re-intercept the approach path.

The pilot flared the aircraft for landing, the aircraft landed heavily and bounced into the air. As the aircraft landed again, the nose wheel touched down first (before the main landing gear) with sufficient force that the nose wheel strut fractured.

The nose landing gear and propeller then dug into the ground and the aircraft rotated over its nose and slid a short distance inverted before coming to rest. The pilot and one passenger were uninjured, another passenger sustained minor injuries, and the aircraft sustained substantial damage.

The pilot had not operated the Maule aircraft with more than one passenger on board prior to the accident flight and felt that the higher all-up-weight of the aircraft with an extra passenger on board may have contributed to a higher sink rate on final approach.

The pilot later formed a view that a go-around, rather than continuing with the landing manoeuvre, would have been a better option.

Take-off and landing phases of flight are critical, since the aircraft is operating closer to the stall speed and with less height to recover from a control problem, relative to cruise flight.

A go-around could have prevented an unstable approach and initial bounce from escalating to an accident.

Read the investigation report AO-2016-049

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Last update 20 October 2016