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Piper Cherokee Lands Fast And Overruns In The Rain

Adverse weather - rain or snow - can make a normal landing a lot more challenging, especially if you're not stabilized on final approach.

Here's an example from the NASA ASRS database where a pilot landed fast on a wet runway and couldn't get stopped in time.


Piper Cherokee Overruns In The Rain

...As I approached the airport, I was flying at 125 MPH, faster than my usual 110 MPH approach speed and was having a hard time spotting the airport in the moderate rainfall. As I got within 2 miles, I spotted the runway and realized my position was on an extended left base leg...I announced on CTAF that I was on left base.

I was close and high - near pattern altitude - but I thought I could slow the plane down. I brought the throttle to idle, and very shortly announced my turn to final. The airspeed with full flaps hit 100 MPH rather than the usual 85-90 MPH. I touched down fast and lightly, but at a higher than normal speed.

The runway end was close ahead when I slammed on the brakes and made an attempt to turn left to escape at high speed down the taxiway. The tires hydroplaned on the rain-slick runway, and the plane slid sideways smashing a runway light at the end of the runway, and into the wet and muddy grass runway overrun area.

Runway Surface Contamination

When you're flying a GA aircraft, performance charts may not give you any guidance on how to re-calculate your landing distance based on surface contamination. So what else can you do?

The Flight Safety Foundation's "Approach and Landing Accident Reduction Tool Kit" (ALAR) provides some guidance:

  • Wet Runways: Multiply the landing distance by a factor of 1.3 to 1.4
  • Standing Water or Slush: Multiply by 2.0 to 2.3
  • Snow-Covered Runways: Multiply by 1.6 to 1.7
  • Icy Runways: The landing distance could be 3.5 to 4.5 times longer than normal

When Are Runway Conditions Reported?

While this landing accident happened on a wet runway, the same can happen on icy, or icy/wet mixed runways.

So how can you figure out what the runway conditions are like before you arrive at your destination?

At non-towered airports, you probably won't get a report for a wet runway. You'll need to use guidelines like the Flight Safety Foundation's above to make sure you have a safe stopping distance.

But as we approach winter, you'll start seeing more runway condition reports, at both towered and non-towered airports. When airports conduct a braking action test, they issue a NOTAM for the braking action. You can find the NOTAMs in ForeFlight, like the example below:


What Do the Numbers Mean?

In the NOTAM for Airlake, the braking action is reported as "3/3/3". If you look at the chart below, it means the braking action for the runway is "medium" at the touchdown, midpoint, and rollout parts of the runway.

When you see braking action numbers, the bigger the number, the better the braking action. The scale is from 0 to 6. 0 means nil braking, and 6 means dry runway normal braking action.


What About Towered Airports?

When a braking action NOTAM is issued at a towered airport, they'll include it in ATIS.

But keep in mind, even if a runway condition report is NOTAM'd for the airport, the tower is not required to give you a conditions report over the radio.

If conditions are rapidly changing and the ATIS isn't representative of the true runway conditions, tower may give you updated runway information directly. But if you have a question about the runway condition after listening to ATIS, it's always best to ask.

Preparing For Touchdown

When you touch down on a contaminated runway too fast, you can significantly increase your landing distance. Trying to compensate by over-braking only makes things worse.

Initially after touchdown, use little to no brakes. Then, gently press them to feel their effectiveness. It's easy to get anxious and jam on the brakes, but that can lock up your wheels. And when that happens, your braking effectiveness decreases, and you can start sliding. The more gentle you are on the brakes, the easier it is to maintain directional control on the runway.

Preparing To Land In Less-Than-Ideal Conditions

Know the runway condition codes, give yourself enough runway to stop, be gentle on the brakes, and fly your airplane all the way to the taxi turnoff. And if you find yourself forcing the airplane down on a contaminated runway, go around and try again.

Protect your certificate with AOPA Pilot Protection Services. Learn more and get started here.

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