The flight instructor reported that, during an instructional flight, while on short final, he told the student pilot to “pitch down” to maintain airspeed.
He added that the student did not respond and that he again instructed the student to “pitch down now” while simultaneously pressing forward on the yoke.
As he pushed forward on the yoke, the student “pulled [back] with equal force on the yoke,” he said.
Subsequently, the flight instructor pushed forward on the yoke “with greater force” than the previous attempt and stated “my plane” to the student, but “continued to wrestle the controls with the student” as the airplane entered an aerodynamic stall.
The Cessna 172 then hit the runway threshold hard at the airport in Ravenna, Ohio, the nose landing gear collapsed, and the airplane veered off the runway to the right.
The student pilot reported that this was his first flight with this flight instructor but that he had accumulated about 82 hours of dual instruction previously. He noted that, during the second landing of the day, while on final approach, “the instructor had me pull the power and told me nose down.”
He further added that he “felt we were getting low and I told the instructor I wanted to increase power, but the instructor told me to ‘nose down.’”
The student pilot reported that the instructor again stated multiple times to “nose down,” but he “did not believe there was enough room to continue nose down.”
The student pilot reported that the flight instructor subsequently took the flight controls and nosed the airplane down and that the airplane hit the runway threshold hard and veered off the runway.
The fuselage and firewall sustained substantial damage.
During post-accident correspondence with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, the flight instructor reported that he could not recall if, during preflight, he and the student pilot discussed the positive transfer of the flight controls.
FAA Advisory Circular 61-115, “Positive Exchange of Flight Controls Program,” dated March 10, 1995, stated, in part: During flight training, there must always be a clear understanding between students and flight instructors of who has control of the aircraft. Prior to flight, a briefing should be conducted that includes the procedure for the exchange of flight controls.
A positive three-step process in the exchange of flight controls between pilots is a proven procedure and one that is strongly recommended. When an instructor is teaching a maneuver to a student, the instructor will normally demonstrate the maneuver first, then have the student follow along on the controls during a demonstration and, finally, the student will perform the maneuver with the instructor following along on the controls.
When the flight instructor wishes the student to take control of the aircraft, he says to the student, “You have the flight controls.” The student acknowledges immediately by saying, “I have the flight controls.” The flight instructor again says, “You have the flight controls.”
During this procedure, a visual check is recommended to see that the other person actually has the flight controls.
When returning the controls to the instructor, the student should follow the same procedure the instructor used when giving control to the student. The student should stay on the controls and keep flying the aircraft until the instructor says, “I have the flight controls.” There should never be any doubt as to who is flying the aircraft.
Probable cause: The flight instructor’s failure to perform a go-around during final approach, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and a hard landing. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor’s failure to brief the student pilot on the positive transfer of aircraft control during preflight.
NTSB Identification: GAA17CA337
This June 2017 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.