Aviation occurrence briefs

Hard landing involving Piper PA-38-112, Toowoomba City Aerodrome, Qld, on 10 March 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 10 March 2018 at 0945 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk aircraft was on a training flight from Toowoomba City Aerodrome, Queensland with a student and an instructor on board.

During approach to land on runway 11, the student was in control of the aircraft. After crossing the threshold, the student initiated the landing flare,[1] and at this time, the aircraft encountered gusty conditions, which unexpectedly increased the aircraft’s rate of sink. The student immediately applied forward pressure to the control column as the instructor stated “taking over” and attempted to pull back on the control column. However, the student inadvertently maintained some forward pressure on the control column during this time, preventing the instructor applying full back pressure prior to landing.

Subsequently, the aircraft landed on all three wheels with sufficient force to shear off the nose wheel. The instructor was able to apply full back pressure on the control column and steered the aircraft off the runway and onto a grassed area. The instructor then shut down the aircraft and both the student and instructor evacuated the aircraft without injury. The aircraft was later assessed to have sustained substantial damage including to the propeller blades and oleo strut.[2]

Safety message

While conducting training activities, students are more likely to sustain a higher than normal workload, particularly during landing. This can result in a decreased sensitivity to verbal instructions, including an instructor stating that they have taken over control of the aircraft. (Orlady, H. and Orlady, M, 1999). [3] It is also possible that a student may not be aware that they are still applying control inputs. As this is a normal part of human performance, it is not possible to eliminate the likelihood of this occurring altogether, and difficult to limit the consequences of it when there is little time available for instructors to identify the problem. However, it may be possible to reduce the risk by conducting comprehensive pre-flight briefing sessions where the required actions for a student once an instructor states, ‘I have control’, are emphasised regularly, particularly for inexperienced pilots.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. The final nose-up pitch of a landing aeroplane used to reduce the rate of descent to about zero at touchdown.
  2. A hydraulic device used as a shock absorber in the landing gear of aircraft, consisting of an oil-filled cylinder fitted with a hollow, perforated piston into which oil is slowly forced when a compressive force is applied to the landing gear, as in a landing.
  3. Orlady, H. and Orlady, M., Human Factors in Multi-Crew Flight Operations, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot England
General details
Date: 10 March 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0945 EST    
Location   (show map): Toowoomba City Aerodrome    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 15 August 2018   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-38-112  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Last update 12 December 2018