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Wrong strip, high sink

PUBLISHED: 13:39 24 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:06 10 October 2012

The pilot of the Jabiru SK planned to fly from his Suffolk base to a 600-metre-long private strip one mile west of Tibenham aerodrome in...

The pilot of the Jabiru SK planned to fly from his Suffolk base to a 600-metre-long private strip one mile west of Tibenham aerodrome in Norfolk. He had not previously visited the strip, but knew that it had a north/south grass runway.

He navigated using a half-million chart. Arriving north of Diss, with his destination still two/three miles ahead, he saw a grass airstrip aligned north/south and joined the circuit to land in a southerly direction. Final approach proceeded normally at 55kt, but as he started the flare, the pilot reported that the aircraft “sank rapidly from a height of about eight feet”, struck the ground heavily and slid along for 130metres, sustaining substantial damage.

The pilot stated, “It was a hot summer’s day with little wind. The airstrip had trees lining both sides with a field of corn next to it. I can only assume that there was rising hot air from the cornfield and corresponding descending air onto the airstrip causing the rapid loss of height.” Another pilot familiar with the strip had also experienced this phenomenon.

The strip at which the pilot landed was approximately 300 metres long, and surrounded by trees. Notes the AAIB, “CAA Safety Sense leaflet 5d VFR Navigation contains valuable advice for pilots. In the section ‘Approaching your destination’ it states, ‘With your destination area in sight, do not put aside your chart until you have positively identified the correct aerodrome.’ Significant landmarks, immediately adjacent to the pilot’s destination, would have assisted the pilot in identifying and correcting his navigational error.”

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