The 1946-built Ercoupe 415-C took the worst part of a landing prang in Panacea, Florida on the evening of 16 December; its pilot and passenger walking away and wondering why the brakes didn’t work after setting down on the 2,600ft turf strip at the Wakulla County airport (2JO) after a flight in from Atlanta.
Kyriakos Loumakis, the pilot, tells the FAA he was on final approach at 80mph. “I applied the brakes but the brakes failed to stop the aircraft,” he says. “I went the remaining length of the runway and went through a fence at the end of the runway with the airplane ended up on its nose.”
An FAA accident investigator had a mechanic look at the downed bird, finding that the brakes worked fine, and that there was no evidence of “torn loose sod or skid marks” leading up to the fence.
Regardless of whether the brakes were applied, the 80mph approach speed would seem to have been too high for the Ercoupe to prevent a long landing run given the suggested landing speed of 60 to 70mph in the Ercoupe instruction manual (snapshot of applicable pages were included in the NTSB report – click on the image below to see a larger version).
The manual provides lots of leeway though. In the colourful but not-so-technical talk of the 1940s, the Ercoupe company instructed pilots thusly about landing:
“A good airspeed reading during the approach to a landing is one between 60 and 70mph”, the manual says, adding in later, “However the airplane may be set on the ground at up to twice the minimum speed, and as long as the control wheel is not pulled back, will stay on the ground….On the other hand, there is no point in steaming in at excessively high speed”