Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/John Zimmerman

Blog Editor’s note: This is an exercise for you to complete if you wish. There is no need to send any response to anyone – just think about the accident reported below and consider how you might prevent such a situation from happening to you.

Not all accidents happen on dark and stormy nights. The crash of a Cirrus SR20 outside Chicago in 2013 is a tragic example, as a seemingly normal flight ended in flames.

The pilot was landing on runway 18 at Bolingbrook’s Clow Airport after a three hour flight from Kentucky. The weather was quite good, with clear skies and warm temperatures. Wind was from 070 degrees at 8 knots: Hardly dangerous, but perhaps a factor given the pilot’s decision to land to the south.

After a normal arrival into the Chicago area, the 63-year old pilot, who had logged roughly 350 hours of total time, set up for a landing on the 3300 ft. runway. The report stated: “The airplane touched down multiple times at least half way down the runway. The airplane was observed to take off from the runway and then made a left turn.” It seems as though the pilot attempted a go-around, but lost control shortly after taking off again. The airplane crashed just off the airport property and caught fire, with both the pilot and passenger fatally injured.

How could such a seemingly simple landing in such a modern airplane and in such good weather go so terribly wrong? The radar reconstruction shows that “the airplane had an average rate of descent of 1,301 feet per minute and an average ground speed of 117 knots on final approach.”

If a good landing begins with a good approach, this airplane never had a chance. But a bad approach does not automatically lead to a fatal crash. When is it too late to start a go-around? How can a go-around be conducted safely?

Like every accident, the pilot did not set out to crash his airplane that day. It was hardly a high risk day, with cooperative weather and an airplane that showed no signs of pre-impact failure. But a combination of decisions and control inputs led to a tragic outcome; an outcome all of us would like to avoid.

Now it’s your turn. What can you learn from this accident? How can you avoid a situation like this? Add a comment below, but follow three rules:
1.      Assume it could happen to you
2.      Don’t blame the pilot – this is not a trial but a learning experience
3.     Determine what you can do to next time you fly to prevent such a situation from occurring.

Tony Birth