On Sunday 8th January 2017, an Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen – registered VH-VBQ – was involved in a much-publicised landing incident at Moorabbin Airport. The final landing was recorded on video by a Channel 9 helicopter, as well as by several people on the ground.
As I understand it, briefly, here is what happened.
The aircraft was on hire to a pilot, who was not an instructor, to go for a local flight with a friend. Conditions at Moorabbin Airport recorded an increasingly gusty cross wind. When the aircraft returned to land, a gust caught the aircraft and it landed heavily on the nose wheel and right side main gear. The plane bounced and, in my opinion correctly, the pilot initiated a go round. However, it quickly became obvious that the nose landing gear was bent and also, to a lesser extent, the right main gear.
An emergency was declared and the aircraft circled nearby while the airport was closed and a foam blanket laid at the end of runway 17R – the most into-wind runway and also the closest to apron and emergency services access. The pilot made a couple of trial approaches to this runway before making a final approach and successful landing. During the touch down, as might have been expected, the nose leg collapsed completely and the aircraft slid to a halt just beyond the end of the foam layer. The pilot and passenger were not injured and were able to exit the aircraft quickly. There was no fire and the aircraft is currently being assessed for damage before repair.
The pilot had relatively low flight time recorded on the A32 and is to be congratulated on making a successful emergency landing in the conditions, which not only included a gusty cross wind but also limited rudder control due to the damaged nose leg, which is control-rod connected to the pedals.
Afternote – news programs and publications variously reported the following: ‘the nose wheel failed to lock into position’; ‘the front wheels of the plane malfunctioned’; ‘the pilot circled the runway numerous times while he tried to fix the issue’ and ‘the aircraft made a nose landing’. I would like to re-assure customers and owners of the A32 Vixxen that (a) it is not built as a retractable gear aircraft, and (b) there is no inherent problem with the nose gear. But if you bang anything hard enough, it will bend, and it’s quite difficult to fix the bent gear while you’re flying the aircraft.