It’s not the first time—and certainly won’t be the last—that someone slides off the end of a moderately short but adequate runway. This “oops” was an expensive mistake from a hardware perspective, but fortunately there were no injuries.
A Citation CJ3 slid off the end of a 4,000-foot runway this weekend and into a water trap (appropriately named) of a nearby golf course. (Mind if we play through?) Golf etiquette notwithstanding; remember how critical energy management is to safe landings. It’s good practice to be on speed, on altitude, and on the center line, no matter how long or wide the runway is. I refer to this as the Goldilocks parameters: Not too much, not too little—just right.
In this accident we know mostly what happened—aircraft went off the end. Runway length according to the flight manual was sufficient for the aircraft. There was a displaced threshold of about 350 feet but, even with that, if Goldilocks was in the cockpit everything should have worked. This is also assuming little or no runway slope, no standing water or other contamination, and little or no tailwind. These affect all aircraft but are more critical in jets.
In bigger aircraft and jets the Vref, or landing speeds, can change significantly. This is based on weight, since fuel or passenger load can be a much larger percentage than on a light aircraft. But even in a Cessna 182, a 5- to 7-knot variation can make the difference between a floater and a sinker. Obviously to get book performance, flaps have to be full down. The CJ3 has ground flaps and speed brakes to help dump lift, and timely deployment is essential. Too soon to know if and how they were deployed.
These aircraft are typically equipped with angle of attack indicators, which will automatically adjust the speed for weight, configuration, and density altitude. Keep the energy on the green meatball (1.3 Vso) and you’ll get book performance every time.
The accident report will clarify more of the “what” and then it’s up to us to understand the “why.” If Goldilocks isn’t in your cockpit beware the wolf. In Florida—which is where this mishap occurred—one more caveat: It would be a pity to be gator bait after having survived unscathed!
ASI recently completed a “Takeoffs and Landings” video series made possible by the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and the Donner Canadian Foundation. The videos cover short field landings, normal takeoffs, determining an abort point, crosswind landings, stabilized approaches, and the base-to-final turn. A great opportunity for pilots of all levels to hone these important skills.
What more, if anything, should we be doing to raise awareness?