NASCAR Jet Pilot: No Brakes!

Tonight a news story broke about a small jet “crash landing” in Florida after losing its brakes on landing. The jet belongs to Jimmie Johnson Racing II Incorporated, a NASCAR team owner. The jet ran about 100 feet into the 600-foot overrun safety area beyond the end of the runway before coming to a stop. The good news is that no one was seriously hurt. The pilots in this case deserve praise for keeping the plane straight on the runway all the way to the end – they did not stop flying the plane! Kudos also go to the airport for recently completing the overrun safety area.

This led me to wonder what I would do if I were landing and lost my brakes? I have no personal experience flying jets beyond the flight simulator on my PC, so instead I’ll consider the Cessna 172. The main idea would be to keep the plane under control, straight and on the runway, and to stop as quickly as possible. With no brakes, I’d want to use drag. Firstly, I’d have an advantage in my small prop because it’s nowhere near as aerodynamically sleek as a jet, nor would I have the speed and momentum a larger jet would. Any headwind would also be welcome here. I’d keep my flaps fully extended to make use of their drag. (It appears the flaps are still down in the photos of the jet.) The prop itself would create drag, as the power would be at idle upon touchdown. If I was feeling especially worried about what was waiting for me at the end of the runway, I might try opening the doors! A willing passenger would be helpful in this case. Seat belts should of course be secured according to the pre-landing checklist, though a pull on the strap to snug them up a bit would be a good idea.

What if you knew there was a dangerous ditch at the end of the runway? Would you be willing to try turning off onto the taxiway even if your groundspeed was still a bit high for such a turn, making you at risk for tipping over?

Other possibilities come to mind. For instance, what if you were flying a 182 with a constant speed propeller? Could you adjust prop pitch for the shallowest angle of attack to create the most drag? This is part of the pre-landing checklist I use in preparation for a go-around, though I know some pilots don’t do this in order to minimize noise as they fly at low altitude near the airport.

Thankfully this scary Halloween event had a happy ending, save damage to the plane, and provided some food for thought we can all use to mentally prepare for such an event happening to us. Any more ideas? What would you do?

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