Airbus 380 hard landing at Oshkosh Air Show

Posted on 29. Jul, 2009 by in Featured

Yikes! I suspect some structural engineers just booked a flight from France to Wisconsin. Like Airbus hasn’t had enough bad publicity lately. Note the wing flexes twice; not good. The double PIO on roll out seems to show an inherent instability in yaw. I’m not poking fun at the Airbus pilot; we’ve all (Airline Pilots) pranged one on at LaGuardia (NY), National (DC) or one of the other ridiculously short runways in the system. It is embarrassing enough in front of 150 people, let alone hundreds of thousands. Most pilots I know are thinking, “there but for the grace of……”

So let me provide a little cover for my fellow test pilot. First, airliners are not designed to be flown empty; they are more difficult to land without cargo and passengers. Second, test pilots in general don’t get a lot of flight time. Most significantly, listen to the announcer, it is apparent the crew was demonstrating the A-380s ability to stop in minimal distance, a short field landing. Just my opinion, but the A-380 also seems a bit short coupled and thus a tad unstable in Beta (yaw).

What is a short field landing? It is an approach and landing to a runway that is not long enough to allow error or smoothness. The profile is flown at the minimum approach speed, power to idle (right at touchdown) and plant it, with authority, on the end of the runway. Basically, it is a carrier type approach and landing. The A-380 Captain puts it right on the numbers (end of the runway) and by the cocked up nose it appears he is right at VREF (minimum speed) in the Navy we called it “on speed” or optimum angle of attack.

Any Naval Aviator will tell you by holding a constant speed (optimum angle of attack) you can put the aircraft exactly where you want it. The optimum angle of attack is defined as L/D MAX, in English, the maximum lift over drag. A consequence is that you are in effect at the peak of lift, so if you get ANY slower you are on the back side of the lift curve, the dark-side!

Any Naval Aviator will also offer up; that you may be flying on the wing, but you are living on the engine. VREF+A (reference speed plus additives) allows a pilot to trade the kinetic energy of excess airspeed (the additives) for cushion in a flared landing. A Navy Fighter does not flare; they hold the constant angle of attack until impact and thus need no additives. Power control equals glide slope or the rate of descent. The power setting must stay high all the way to touch down. Thus when a pilot pulls power at optimum angle of attack the aircraft comes down like a brick, wind (especially a cross wind) amplifies the come down. There is not enough excess energy to cushion or lesson the rate of descent; note the nose coming up just prior to touchdown with no result. In Navy speak, “he was out of Schlitz.”

Additives are additional speed necessary for various conditions; cross wind is an example, as are gusts. In fact the additives are higher for gusts. I’ve seen additives as high as 20 knots due to high gusting wind. There were gusty winds at Oshkosh.

Time to dust off my old “evil” LSO (Landing Signal Officer) Paddles and grade the pass; in the Navy every pass (approach and landing) is graded by an LSO on a 4 point scale. An LSO is a pilot that helps keep fellow pilots, planes and ships safe during carrier landings. Pilots and Navigators like that. The LSO also grades every landing for publication, they don’t like that! So here we go:

The A-380 appears to be slow at the start and crabbing into the wind due to not enough right rudder. Just prior to touch down the pilot apparently pulls the power increasing the rate of descent resulting in a “stiff” touchdown. A grade of C (sub-standard) would have been assigned. In LSO short hand:


(No Grade: slow start, not enough power in the middle to in close, pull nose up on settle at ramp, not enough right rudder all the way)

I sure hope my next landing doesn’t end up on YouTube being graded by thousands!

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