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Pilot miscalculated landing

PUBLISHED: 19:31 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

The crashed single-engined Piper Cherokee.

The crashed single-engined Piper Cherokee.

RICHARD BATSON

An experienced pilot got his sums wrong when he landed a powerful twin-engined plane on the wet grass of Norfolk airstrip - and overshot on to a public road.

An experienced pilot got his sums wrong when he landed a powerful twin-engined plane on the wet grass of Norfolk airstrip - and overshot on to a public road.

The Cessna Golden Eagle could not stop, smashed through a bank and ended up on the road at Northrepps near Cromer last September.

An air accident investigation board report says that half way down the runway the pilot “experienced a sensation like aquaplaning” and lost all braking.

The 44-year-old unnamed flier, who escaped unhurt from the crash along with his two passengers, had 2475 hours flying experience, 255 of them on the Golden Eagle, though he had not flown one for 2½ years.

He bought the American-registered crash plane just two weeks before the accident, and while he had plenty of experience of landing on short grass airstrips, had not been into Northrepps before.

A first landing at just after 6pm on September 30 was aborted just after touchdown, when he decided it would be better to come in from the other direction and use the uphill slope to help slow the plane.

The second time he lost two thirds of his touchdown speed by the time he was half way down the runway - then the braking affect of the wheels ended and the slope petered out.

The plane smashed through a roadside bank and on to the road at “some speed” causing substantial damage to the landing gear, wings and fuselage.

The report says the aircraft flight manual revealed that wet grass and a tail wind meant the Cessna needed 3879ft of runway - while Northrepps is only 1617ft long.

It says the pilot failed to use the manual to calculate his landing performance. He had also closed the throttle just before the start of runway - when the manual said the engines should be shut down 50ft above the runway and the aircraft fully stalled at touchdown.

However in its conclusion it says that due to lack of witnesses it was not possible to say whether the failure to stop was the result of an imperfectly executive landing or the lack of braking on the short wet grass.

Just 11 days after the Cessna crash, a single engine Piper Cherokee overshot the Northrepps runway and belly flopped into a nearby field, leaving three men with back injuries. An earlier AAIB report blamed pilot error for that crash - caused by trying to land with a tailwind.

The airfield was shut for a while after the second crash for a safety audit to be carried out, but was later reopened after no major problems came to light.

Airfield operator Chris Gurney last night said he was pleased the two reports had cleared the strip of any blame.

For a full report of the accident visit the website www.aaib.dft.gov.uk


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