Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
#1025518
Caravans in the Bush

Richard Boswell takes us with Pilot X landing a Cessna Caravan on a short, rough strip in the sub-Saharan Africa, faced with the first thermal activity of the approaching rainy season…

X felt the sweat penetrate his shirt at the base of his spine every time he sat back in his seat; this time of year, the heat was blistering in the tropics. He tweaked the electric trim to relieve the last bit of pressure on the controls and reduced the power by a 100ft/lb to increase the rate of descent a little. Landing long and fast on these short, rutted strips was never a good thing and that had been drilled him into from his very first training flight in the company by the sage training captain who had spent nearly 40 years bush flying in Africa.
On long final was no time to relax, but with almost 2,000 hours under his belt, most of it in the bush – and with almost 1,000 hours on the steadfast Cessna Caravan – X felt comfortable and relaxed in his work environment. When he had left his job in the bank four years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a professional pilot, he had dreamed of piloting long-haul jets to exotic corners of the world. Never once had he imagined himself flying tourists into vast game parks in sub-Saharan Africa but he wouldn’t change it for the world. Maybe one day he would tire of the heat and the dust, and yearn for a more conformist existence. However, right now, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
X pulled back the power lever a little more and instinctively tweaked the electric trim once again. He still seemed to be drifting a little high on the approach – perhaps he had flown through a little thermal. It was the start of the rainy season and the first wave of cloud cells had began to wash over the savannah. In two months, the rain would be so intense that the dirt strips and roads would be unusable and the vast game park would fall silent to human activity for a few months. Right now though, it was as busy as ever. X had noted the menacing dark cloud which was sitting just beyond the upwind end of the strip and had already made a mental note that should he have to go round from the approach, an early turn would be required to avoid flying too close to it. X smiled to himself, go-arounds were as common in this part of the world as giraffes, elephants and the enormous herds of antelope that wandered across the airstrip. He didn’t recall being taught that when he did his PPL in Surrey, but it was a major part of his life now.
He smiled a little as he thought of home. It was two weeks into the New Year, the hottest time of the year and the occasional diamond of sweat running down the side of his sunglasses confirmed this. He got regular texts from his family telling him about the latest bout of snow, while he pestered the engineers to repair the air-conditioning units in the aircraft. He selected full flap and the aircraft ballooned up as it always did. Re-trimming, he
took a little more power off, as he was still drifting high and still a little hot on the speed, but this was one of the many beauties of the this aircraft; when fully configured for landing, she was a draggy machine and you could get her to drop like a stone. He pushed the rpm lever to full and opened the inlet particle separator early to add that little extra drag and correct back onto the low approach profile he preferred, to ensure that you always landed on the numbers.

Still too high
X made his final call on the general air-to-air frequency; there was no air traffic in these remote parts but the pilots made in a habit to keep each other informed of their whereabouts and intentions to de-conflict with each other. X kept scanning not only for other aircraft but also to check that the runway was clear of animals. More than once he had narrowly missed hitting a beast as it burst onto the runway from the surrounding trees as he touched down.
X was still high. He took the last bit of power off and felt uneasy. It was a little bumpy and gusty, however this wasn’t particularly unusual around these parts, but with less than a mile-and-a-half to go he felt like he was still doing a glide approach when he had started from a five-mile final at 1,500ft agl. He was just considering an early go-around when suddenly the picture looked OK and for a second he relaxed again.
But in a heartbeat, the aircraft started to descend below the glideslope. He advanced the power lever as quickly as he dared. The PT6 was a great engine but without FADEC she needed to be managed carefully. He checked inside the cockpit, completing his pre-landing checks, when the ASI caught his eye. He was now 10kt slow.
Already low, he was reluctant to lower the nose, so he applied more power. Out of nowhere the aircraft had become dangerously low and
slow. He wanted to apply more power but was already at maximum permitted torque. There was more power available, although he did not want to blemish his career by having to take the aircraft back with a massive over-torque. Now he was very low... still half-a-mile from the runway and he felt he was skimming the tops of the trees
and still descending...
Self-preservation kicked in. He pulled back on the control column to stop the wheels clipping the branches. With the stall-warner ringing loud in his headset, he firewalled the power lever as he felt the light buffet of the incipient stall through the controls.
Just as the aircraft passed the last tree before the landing strip, it dropped out of the sky and impacted the rough, scrubland bush. The impact ripped the undercarriage away and X felt the force of the propeller impacting the ground under full power. The Cessna skidded on its belly pod onto the runway and came to a halt with the cabin still fully intact.

1 What was the principal cause of the accident?
2 What could have X had done differently?
3 What warning signs did he miss?
User avatar
By KNT754G
#1025725
1 Classic windshear, increasing headwind causes increased IAS and reduced sink rate until momentum takes over, then suddenly the head wind has reduced groundspeed and LOTS more power needed to recover.
2 Go around EARLY
3 The menacing dark could upwind of the runway. Thermal downdrafts spreading out from the base were predictable