Airplane stalls on go-around

Aircraft: Cessna 177B. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Honesdale, Pa. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was operating on a temporary certificate in preparation for an FAA competency checkride. The compentency checkride was required following an accident that happened when the pilot delayed a decision to abort a long landing and crashed into trees beyond the end of the runway.

According to witnesses on the ground, on the day of the fatal flight the pilot attempted to land with a tailwind estimated to be at least 10 knots. He did two patterns, resulting in go-arounds.

As the airplane approached the runway a third time, it appeared to be unusually fast. He initiated the flare, floated, then touched down nosewheel first and porpoised several times.

When the airplane was just past the windsock, which was about 1,200 feet from the runway’s departure end, engine power was applied, and the airplane’s nose pitched up excessively high. The airplane stalled at an estimated 200 to 300 feet above the runway and began a spin to the left, completing about 180° of rotation before hitting the ground with power on.

The post-flight examination did not uncover mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Post-flight toxicology testing revealed that the pilot had ingested an over-the-counter sedating antihistamine in a quantity that exceeded the therapeutic dosage rate. The antihistamine, which is not FAA-approved for use during piloting, carries a warning that it may impair mental and motor skills.

Probable cause: The pilot pitching the airplane to an excessive nose-up attitude during an aborted landing, which resulted in increased induced drag, diminished airspeed, and an aerodynamic stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s use of a sedating antihistamine, which resulted in impaired mental and motor skills.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA319

This May 2012 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.


  1. Bill G says

    Good point Tom. I could have expanded the flare round out- touch down transition. I wasn’t advocating misuse of rudder and aileron coordination. You may recall that the DOT/FAA Flight Training Handbooks site the crab or side slip method in adjusting for cross winds on final approach and that we are occasionally in a side slip (cross control if you will) mode in the flare touch down and taxi mode during cross winds.
    I really appreciate your comments. I believe we need more forums like this and the FAASTeam Flight Instructor/DPE ones we enjoy in the Rochester/Buffalo area. The more we share the the sharper and safer pilots we can be.
    Happy Flying
    Bill G

  2. Tom says

    This write-up of circumstances is virtually unbelievable in that somewhere along the line some instructor or check pilot should have picked up on this individual’s inability to aviate on the most basic of levels and in effect contributed to this poor sap’s death.

    By the way, Bill Geary’s comment below – his # 3 states “…Center of runway with rudders for center of runway control ” is either just blatantly incorrect or Bill really meant something else and just didn’t say it right but please understand out there in aviation land, you don’t keep the airplane on the center of the runway with the rudders. Too many accidents have been caused by “pilots” who when drifting off the side of the runway tried to bring it back with their foot and when in reality the drift needed to be corrected with the stick.

  3. Bill Geary says

    This is probably the best write-up of an accident you have ever posted that I have seen.
    This type of accident points out the need for Pilots and Instructors to cover key points.
    1 “Where are the winds”… direction and speed
    2. Try to focus on “Touch down point” (Numbers plus two next white center line marks) Imagine, if landing on sod, snow or water. Airspeed 1.3 stall speed dirty is a good reference
    Usually same speed as climb out.
    3. Remember site picture …Center of runway with rudders for center of runway control and wing down into wind if crosswind…level if relative steady down the center.
    4 Ease power back for altitude “rounding out”
    5. Look down the end of runway in flare concentrating on nose straight.
    6. Flirt in the flare…don’t rush; level flight just before before touch down. Gentle back pressure on yoke or ”stick”
    7. Just like when making an instrument approach; Its no sin to go around. Brief yourself on a go around point down the runway where you would “go away” and try it again. If your gut doesn’t feel right about the outcome of the landing “Go around Captain” you’re flying the plane not riding it.
    Happy Safe Flying
    Bill G

  4. Randy Coller says

    Another pilot raises our insurance rates.
    It would be interesting to know when the pilot last received instruction. When was the last flight review? Total pilot hours?

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