CHI01FA136
CHI01FA136

On May 9, 2001, at 1610 central daylight time, a Cessna 172S, N142ME, operated by Aviation Enterprises, sustained substantial damage during a bounced landing on runway 20 (7,003 feet by 150 feet, dry grooved concrete) at the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri. The student pilot reported that his seat back reclined upon touchdown. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 solo cross country flight was not operating on a flight plan. The pilot reported no injuries. The flight departed from the Monett Municipal Airport, Monett, Missouri, at 1550.

The student pilot's flight instructor reported in a written statement, "..I signed my student ... off for his solo cross-country in a Cessna 172SP. The trip was fairly uneventful until his final landing at SGF. I was listening on a portable transceiver while standing outside the Aviation Enterprises hangar. Cessna N142ME was cleared to land on runway 20. [The student pilot] confirmed his clearance at roughly 4:15 p.m. and proceeded in towards the runway. His landing was almost complete when he touched the main wheels down. I heard the mains touch and was about to congratulate him when I saw the plane balloon up into the air. The plane then came down the runway and bounced approximately one foot into the air. As it bounced in the air again, the plane started a bucking progressively more violently."

"It bounced about five or six times and finally settled to the runway. [The student pilot] taxied off the runway and towards the hangar where I was standing. When he shut the engine down, I noticed that the nosewheel strut was cocked to the side and that the propeller was bent. Once [the student] got out of the plane, I asked him what happened and why he didn't apply power and execute a go-around. He replied, 'I couldn't reach the throttle!' 'why not?' I said. 'The seat reclined back and the seatbelt locked up!' said [the student pilot]. He then explained that because the seat reclined back he instinctively grabbed the yoke and that's why he ballooned up. As explained previously, [the student pilot] couldn't reach the throttle to save the landing because the seatbelt locked."

"The head mechanic at Aviation Enterprises ... took a look at the seat and noted the seat was indeed reclined back. He pulled the lever up and the seat popped back in the upright position. [The head mechanic] was only able to get the seat to fail once and this happened because the lever to recline the seat jammed in the up position. We also noticed that someone's foot could easily inadvertently move the reclining lever. The reclining lever only needed to be moved a small amount in order to release the seat so it would recline..."

The student pilot reported in a written statement, "[The flight instructor] signed me off for my cross country from SGF to HRO [to] M58 [and] back to SGF. Cross country uneventful. Check weather via computer, winds aloft, radar, NOTAMS [and] area forecasts. Upon landing at SGF I completed my landing checklist and was cleared to land on runway 20. I touched the mains down 1/4 down the runway. Everything was real good until the back of my seat collapsed. At that point I fell backwards and pulled on the yoke. The plane bounced upward and at that time I tried to get to the throttle. After a few more bounces the plane settled on the runway and I taxied to Aviation Enterprises. ...one of the mechanics checked the seat, and the lock was in the down position with the seat laying all the way back."

"The head mechanic stated, "I examined the seat back on 142ME after the accident in question. The seat was reclined and locked into position. I was able to bring the seat back forward by lifting on the release mechanism that is used for the reclining function of the seat..."

The mechanic stated during a postaccident interview that he was never able to get the seat back to fail or the actuating lever to stick.

The student pilot stated during a postaccident interview that he did not know how the operate the recline mechanism of the seat back. The "Before Landing" checklist incorporates the following items:

1. Pilot and Passenger Seat Backs - MOST UPRIGHT POSITION.
2. Seats and Seat Belts - SECURED and LOCKED.
3. Fuel Selector Valve - BOTH.
4. Mixture - RICH.
5. Landing/Taxi Lights - ON.
6. Autopilot (if installed) - OFF.

Advisory Circular 61-21A, Flight Training Handbook, states, "The touchdown is the gentle settling of the airplane onto the landing surface. The roundout and touchdown should be made with the engine idling, and the airplane at minimum controllable airspeed, so that the airplane will touchdown on the main gear at approximately stalling speed..." The student pilot reported during a postaccident interview that he touched down at approximately 71 knots. The stall speed of a Cessna 172S at gross weight is listed as 48 KCAS in a flaps down, power off condition.

According to Flight Theory for Pilots, the total mechanical energy (TE) of an object is the sum of its potential energy (PE) and its kinetic energy (KE). The PE equals the weight of the object multiplied by its height. The KE equals 1/2 of the mass of the object multiplied by the square of its velocity.

The SGF automated surface observing system recorded at 1554, wind from 200 degrees at 8 knots.

The seat contains three mechanisms to adjust the seat fore and aft, up and down and the angle of the seat back. The seat was removed from the airplane and tested under the supervision of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas. During testing, dimensional measurement of the locking cylinder revealed it to conform dimensionally to the manufacturer's design specifications. Also, the actuating lever was cycled 100 times without sticking or jamming taking place, the seat back was uneventfully cycled 100 times each at predetermined recline angles, and the seat back was loaded without any yielding.

The FAA and Cessna Aircraft Company were parties to the investigation.

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