Final Report: A hard day's night

 - May 27, 2008, 7:38 AM

EMBRAER ERJ-145LR, ROANOKE, VA, OCT. 16, 2001–Thirty passengers, two pilots and one flight attendant walked away from a hard night landing in gusty crosswinds. The aircraft, however, didn’t fare as well. Although the RJ was substantially damaged in the excursion, it was flown on a scheduled flight to Charlotte the next day.

According to the captain’s NTSB report, the flight from Pittsburgh to Roanoke was uneventful. She reported, “While on short final approach to landing at Roanoke [with reported winds of 280 at 25 kt gusting to 40], there was an abrupt drop in indicated airspeed. Upon simultaneous notification of the stick shaker, I applied power accordingly and landed without apparent incident. As the landing was more firm than usual, the first officer and I mutually agreed to visually inspect the aircraft upon arrival at the gate. The visual post-flight inspection noted nothing unusual, nor any damage to the aircraft. As the occurrence noted no damage to aircraft, passengers or crew, no further action was taken.”

The copilot’s report gave somewhat more detail: “We arrived into the Roanoke area at approximately 9:45 p.m. and began a visual approach to Runway 33. The captain briefed that a go-around was not an option due to hills on the other side of the runway. Takeoffs were not authorized on 33 during night and IFR operations. Although we had a quartering crosswind at 15 mph gusting to 21 mph, I do not think there was any wind shear. The approach was normal until approximately 300 feet agl, when I called that we were one dot high on the PAPI and Vref+5. The captain appeared to pull the thrust levers to idle and placed both hands back on the yoke. At 200 to 300 feet I called Vref-5 and Vref-10, then the stick shaker activated for one second and we began to sink rapidly.

“I saw the airspeed reach 110 kias, the captain pushed the thrust levers up, but the engines did not spool up in time, and the stall stick shaker went off [again]. At this point, approximately 100 feet agl, the aircraft seemed to stall and within seconds hit the end of the runway. The main gear hit the runway very hard, then the nose gear followed quickly. I do not recall the pitch attitude. The events happened quickly, and by the time I thought about going around it was too late. Immediately upon deplaning I inspected the entire aircraft with a flashlight, paying particular attention to the landing gear. I did not notice any damage to the aircraft, and if I had I would have reported it immediately. The captain verified that there was no damage and said it was not necessary to have maintenance inspect the aircraft. I felt uneasy but complied.”

While both believed that the aircraft was undamaged, the captain called a fellow pilot who was scheduled to take the airplane the next day, and described the hard landing. No reports were filed that evening. The next morning a different crew was assigned to the regional jet; the previous night’s experience was relayed to the captain, and the airplane flew uneventfully to Charlotte. Upon receiving the aircraft in Charlotte, a third crew discovered the damage and the aircraft was pulled from service pending repairs.

At the maintenance facility where the Embraer was taken, maintenance personnel found “the airplane had broken and cracked frames and stringers, as well as popped rivets, and the skin had been worn through in the lower aft pressure vessel. Scraped skin was also visible on the lower aft fuselage, in an area about 10 feet long by three feet wide.” FDR data examination showed a maximum g loading of 2.75 g for .25 sec.