When Not To Go Around
We spend a lot of time talking about bad landings where the pilot(s) should have broken off the approach and gone around. It’s common to continue to try to land at all costs even when the simpler and more sensible option would be to go around and try again. I thought it was worth looking at this crash which shows the opposite: sometimes attempting to go around will just make things worse.
On the 24th of August 2020, a student pilot at Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport crashed into a hangar at the end of his first solo at a small Canadian airport known as Buttonville.
Buttonville Municipal Airport is located 29 kilometres (18 miles) north of Toronto. It started as a privately owned grass strip in 1953 and became an airport in 1962. Since then the local area has become built up, leading to strict noise-control procedures and threats of redevelopment, as the land value is now worth much more than the airport. Plans to replace the airport into a 170-acre property with condominiums, retain shops and office space have been deferred until at least after 2023. The tower, which was replaced in 2007 for a cost of $2 million, was closed down by Nav Canada in 2019. Buttonville is now an uncontrolled airport with two asphalt runways, with 15/33 being the main runway in use.
Canadian Flyers runs a flight training school from the airport and it was one of their students who was involved in the crash. The student pilot was approved for his first solo flight in a Cessna 172, registration C-GJQB. He took off without incident from runway 33, flying several circuits. Everything seemed fine until he came in to land, when he lost control of the aircraft.
This crash has received particular attention as the Cessna 172 had a video camera mounted in the cockpit and the footage of the landing and impact with the hangar was released on social media.
If you watch the video you can see how the problems stacked up on the student pilot. He touches down very flat on runway 33 in what looks like a three-point landing. The Cessna drifts to the left at which point he applies right rudder and applies full power, presumably thinking he should attempt a go-around. He over-corrects and the plane, gathering speed, turns to the right.
As the Cessna leaves the runway, the pilot places both hands on the yoke and pulls back, possibly in hopes of taking off or simply (sensibly) to raise the prop as the aircraft bounces, however he doesn’t reduce power. The Cessna continues out of control, bouncing across the grass and the taxiway towards the apron and the hangar. The pilot clearly panics and turns the yoke hard right in an attempt to turn away from the hangar. He crashes into the hangar and the video ends.
The runway excursion lasted for about 150 metres (500 feet) off the runway and a pilot who knows the airfield posted to PPRuNe that the plane must have been “slightly airborne” as it managed to get over two ditches in the grass, either of which should have stopped the Cessna 172.
Crews remain on scene at Buttonville airport after a small plane with one occupant was involved in an incident.
The plane crashed into a hanger on the north end of airport property.
The pilot has been transported to hospital with serious but not life threatening injuries. pic.twitter.com/LkpyqLpINn
&mdash Markham Fire (MFES) (@MarkhamFire) August 24, 2020
The pilot was treated at hospital for minor injuries. The hangar sustained major damage and the aircraft was destroyed in the impact.
I have to admit, I feel a bit embarrassed for the student who clearly took the advice that you can always go around a little bit too literally.
Somewhat bizarrely, a second student accident happened at the same airport just six days later.
An instructor and a student took off in a Cessna 172M Skyhawk, registration C-GWYC, when the engine began to lose power. The instructor took control and found the engine was not responding. Low, slow and with built-up areas surrounding the airfield, he attempted to land in a nearby field; however The aircraft did not have enough momentum and struck a hill, coming to a rest in a ditch near the road.
TSB Canada are investigating both accidents. I suspect that the flight school is going to come under some pressure.