Cat. 3 investigation report: report concerning an occurrence with limited consequences, based on one or more statements not independently validated by the BEA.
This is a courtesy translation by the BEA of the Final Report on the Safety Investigation published in December 2020. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in French is the work of reference.
Note: the following information is principally based on statements made by the instructor and the pilot in training. This information has not been independently validated by the BEA
1 - HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT
The pilot undertook a training flight with an instructor in the context of a resumption of flights after a period of inactivity, partly related to the lockdown. They took off at about 10:50 from Saint-Omer aerodrome bound for Merville, where they carried out two aerodrome traffic circuits.
During the return flight, they conducted several stall exercises. When they arrived at Saint-Omer, the instructor and the pilot in training carried out three exercises with reduced power for runway 27: a practice forced landing, then a U-shaped approach followed by a final practice forced landing. As the pilot felt that his paths were not precise enough, he proposed carrying out another practice forced landing to the instructor.
On final, with the flaps in the landing position, the pilot informed the instructor that he thought he was too high to continue the exercise. The instructor, considering that landing was still possible, took the controls and reduced the indicated airspeed by making a pitch-up input. He briefly heard the stall warning. He specified that he did not hear this warning during the rest of the final. During the flare, he felt the aeroplane stall and then bounce. He immediately and instinctively initiated a go-around. Informed by the pilot that the fabric of the upper face of the left wing was warped, he then carried out a runway circuit at a height of approximately 400 ft and landed without difficulty. He joined the parking area although the plane leaned to the left.
The damage was limited to the left main landing gear and its fitting structure.
2 - ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The 55-year-old pilot in training held a private pilot licence issued in 1999 and had logged about 470 flight hours. He said he flew about 12 hours per year.
The 62-year-old instructor held a private pilot license issued in 1992 and had logged about 1,000 flight hours, including 600 hours of instruction. He had also logged about 700 flight hours on fixed wing microlights.
The instructor and the pilot-in-training indicated that the wind was from 300° at 5 to 10 kt, that there was no turbulence and that visibility was good without clouds.
3 - SAFETY LESSONS LEARNED
When the instructor took back the controls and continued the exercise, the aeroplane was in a landing configuration on a steep slope. The instructor manoeuvred to increase its sink rate. He then attempted to flare at a low airspeed and high sink rate without using the engine power, although it was available. In these circumstances, the instructor did not control the flare and the landing gear was damaged when the aeroplane touched down.
In such a low speed situation, the flight characteristics are modified and the pilot may not recognize the behaviour of the aeroplane during the flare. Overconfidence, even temporary, can lead to situations that a trained pilot may not be able to control.
The nature of the damage to the aeroplane during the hard landing did not compromise the take-off undertaken instinctively by the instructor. However, a baulked landing can cause a significant shock to the structure of the aeroplane and compromise the recovery. Taking off again after a hard landing may result in the pilot flying an aeroplane whose aerodynamic or mechanical characteristics are no longer guaranteed.
 The pilot had carried out a first flight the previous month with the same instructor and on the same aeroplane.