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Pilot Loses Control On Landing After Passenger Steps On The Rudder Pedal

If you fly with passengers in the front seat, you should brief them on this before you take off...


Report: Front-Seat Passenger Steps On The Rudder During Landing

If you've ever flown with a front-seat passenger, one of the most important things to brief them on is keeping their hands and feet clear of the controls. An incident like this could happen to anyone, especially when you're flying with a nervous passenger. Here's the summary from one NASA ASRS report...

Immediately after I touched down, the aircraft turned sharply to the left. I had little control over the rudders in order to straighten out. The aircraft went off the side of the runway slightly, before I was able to correct the swerving back onto the paved surface. I initially believed I had a flat tire, because of my limited rudder pedal control.

After having the aircraft inspected, the mechanic determined neither the steering nor rudder pedals experienced any failures. The steering worked perfectly fine. My passenger may have accidentally stepped on the rudder while bracing for landing. This passenger was new to flying and noticeably tense during landing. In order to prevent a recurrence, I need to be more diligent on reminding my passenger before landing to keep hands and feet clear of the controls and pedals.

Left Turning Tendencies Can Make A Bad Situation Worse

While this report happened during landing, the same thing can happen during takeoff, where you're using the rudder to offset left-turning tendencies.

Out of the four left-turning tendencies, torque and spiraling slipstream are the two that affect tricycle gear aircraft as they begin their takeoff roll, which is why you need right rudder to maintain centerline during takeoff. Making sure your passenger's feet are clear of the rudder pedals is essential to executing a safe takeoff.


Passenger Safety Briefings

When you're flying your own airplane, it's up to you to make sure your passengers are properly briefed before taxi. Spend extra time making sure they're comfortable. And remember, FAR 91.107 requires you to brief each passenger on how to use their seat belt. When passengers are connected to the intercom, keep them aware of times when a conversation is appropriate vs. distracting. Maintaining a sterile cockpit is critical, especially during high-workload times like takeoff and landing.

As for flight controls, make sure your passengers are aware of the full motion of controls, and how they impact your ability to control the airplane. If you have a passenger or young child that you don't think can follow these instructions, make sure they're comfortable in the back seat.


What Would You Do?

In the heat of the moment, it was likely very difficult for this pilot to assess what was going wrong. A passenger pressing the rudder pedal isn't the first thing you'd normally think of.

Have you ever had a passenger get in the way of the flight controls during your flight? Tell us in the comments below.

Want to take your landings to the next level? Sign up for our Mastering Takeoffs and Landings online course today.

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