On May 7, 1996, at 1135 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N5394K, landed short of the runway while on final approach to Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. The aircraft sustained substantial damage; however, neither the certificated private pilot nor his passenger was injured. The aircraft was being operated as a personal flight by Reno Flying Service when the accident occurred. The flight originated in Reno at 1115 on the day of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported to FAA inspectors that he was too high after turning final on runway 26. However, by the time the aircraft was on short final, he said he had allowed the aircraft to get too low and slow. He said he increased back pressure on the control wheel in an attempt to increase his glide rather than adding power. He reported hearing the stall warning horn and feeling the stall buffet, but thought that once the aircraft entered ground effect it would reach the runway.

In his written report to the Safety Board, the pilot stated that he prepared the aircraft for landing while on downwind. He slowed the aircraft to 70 knots while at a pattern altitude of 5,800 feet msl. He applied carburetor heat, throttled back to 1,500 rpm, and lowered 10 degrees of flaps. He lowered the flaps to 20 degrees while on his base leg. After rolling out on final approach he lowered the flaps to 30 degrees, but noticed the visual approach slope indicator (VASI) lights were indicating that he was low. In response to being low, he added "some" power. As the aircraft neared the approach threshold, it continued to sink but he did not add power because he thought the aircraft would still be able to touch down on the runway. When he realized that he might land short, he applied back pressure on the controls to raise the nose but the aircraft stalled almost simultaneously.

The aircraft landed hard about 10 feet short of the runway threshold, shattering the windscreen. The pilot thought he felt the aircraft bounce and then settle on the runway. He attempted to stay on the runway but the aircraft veered off the right side of the runway as he applied the brakes. The aircraft came to rest about 10 feet off the right side of the runway, 600 feet beyond the runway threshold.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector who responded to the accident reported that the aircraft landed about 11 feet short of the threshold of runway 26. After locating the initial impact marks, a second impact mark was found on the 2-inch raised lip on the runway threshold. That mark corresponded to the right main landing gear. The aircraft slid to a stop off the right side of the runway. He reported that the final approach was flown over rising terrain. According to the FAA Airman's Information Manual, ". . . upsloping terrain can create the illusion that the aircraft is higher than it actually is."

A postaccident inspection of the aircraft by FAA airworthiness inspectors revealed that the nose gear strut collapsed and the top of the cylinder was separated. The tire on the right main landing gear was ruptured and flat. The aircraft firewall was buckled.

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