Shortened approach leads to accident

This June 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Beech Sundowner.
Location: Taylor, Ariz.
Injuries: None.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: On the day of the accident, the student pilot flew with his CFI for 50 minutes, and was then signed off for his first solo flight. The instructor left the airplane. The student’s takeoff and crosswind turn were normal. While on downwind he saw a rain squall ahead and decided to turn base early to avoid the rain. As he made the turn, he realized that he had turned too early. Instead of going around, he made a steeper than normal approach, which resulted in a higher than normal airspeed.

The student flared too high and the airplane landed hard and bounced. The airplane began to porpoise. The student did not initiate a go-around. The airplane veered off the runway into the brush. The landing gear sheared off and the airplane caught fire. The student was able to escape without injury.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s misjudged landing flare and inadequate recovery from a bounced landing that resulted in a loss of directional control.

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