On 26 October 2012, a Piper PA-39 (Twin Comanche) aircraft, registered VH‑MMN (MMN), was landing at the Innamincka Township aeroplane landing area (ALA), South Australia. On board the aircraft were the pilot and a passenger.

MMN joined the circuit, and when on the downwind leg, the pilot noted that the windsock was indicating a strong crosswind. As a precaution, the pilot elected to increase the aircraft’s airspeed for the approach by about 5 knots and selected ½ flaps (about 15 degrees).

The pilot turned the aircraft onto final about 200 ft higher than normal. At that time, the windsock was showing a 15 kt crosswind, from the south-west. The pilot focused on the crosswind and ensured that the aircraft remained aligned with the runway.

During the landing, at about 100 ft above the runway, the flare was commenced. The aircraft floated and touched down about a quarter the way along the runway. The pilot reduced the throttle setting to the idle position and applied light braking.

When the aircraft was about half way along the runway, the pilot realised that the aircraft’s speed was too fast and he applied full braking. The pilot determined that it was too late to commence a go‑around. He reported that the braking appeared to be ineffective due to the surface of the runway and the aircraft continued beyond the runway end. The left landing gear struck a depression, and then the aircraft spun to the left and came to rest in a 1 m deep gully. The pilot and passenger exited the aircraft, the pilot received a minor injury whille the passenger was uninjured. The aircraft sustained serious damage.

This accident demonstrates the importance of assessing the operational and environmental conditions at the time in order to determine the most suitable landing type. Pilots should also establish a decision point along the runway at which a go-around should be initiated if the requirements for a safe landing can no longer be met. Additionally, it highlights the benefits of using all available resources, including persons on the ground, for gathering information on the actual conditions.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin – Issue 15