ZK-JFI Go Around

In October 2011, JFI, a Cessna 172 was attempting to land at Monks Strip in Arrowtown. Unfortunately it did not end well.

This Cessna 172 pilot stuck to a plan that was going wrong and then left himself with no room to correct his mistakes.

More details of the story

The pilot was killed and his two passengers seriously injured

The pilot was based in the North Island but was familiar with the Monks Strip airstrip as he had been there 18 times in the last eight months.

On the day of the accident, he had taken off from Monks Strip, flown to Queenstown with his passengers, and then on to Invercargill. After lunch, they returned directly to Monks Strip.

The aircraft was operating at close to maximum all up weight (MAUW), 32 kg under.

The wind conditions would have presented the pilot with an approximate 15 knot crosswind component which is the maximum demonstrated crosswind component for the Cessna 172.  There was also turbulence associated with the conditions.

The elevation of Monks Strip is 1300 feet and the airstrip is set within a valley in the mountains.

During the final approach, full flap was not extended.  This was most likely due to the pilot limiting the amount of flap extension to assist him in coping with the crosswind conditions. 

Without the benefit of some wing flap extended for the go-around, the stalling speed of the aircraft was increased.  Given the slow climb-out speed of the aircraft observed in the video recording, there was very little airspeed margin above the stall speed.

Due to the rising terrain of the Crown Range ahead of the aircraft, the pilot would have had difficulty in establishing a true horizon to use as a visual reference on the climb-out.  The tops of the Crown Range were also covered in cloud which would have made the task more difficult.  It is possible the pilot may have been fooled by a false horizon and he therefore continued to raise the aircraft’s nose to establish what he perceived to be the correct climb attitude.  This action would result in the aircraft’s airspeed reducing to the point of a stall. 

It could be seen from the video recording the pilot had pulled the elevator control fully aft, probably as a natural reaction to the aircraft descending close to the ground.