Stuck in the mud — unsealed airstrips

The Cessna 182 after flipping on a private airstrip about 100km south-west of Bourke, NSW. Image: ATSB

The pilot of a Cessna 182 was lucky to walk away with only minor injuries after the aircraft flipped after a hard landing on an unsealed airstrip.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) issued its final report on the incident that took place in July, warning other pilots about the dangers of unsealed airfields.

‘This incident highlights the importance of the identification and management of risks associated with unsealed airfields,’ said the ATSB. ‘Potential hazards such as changes in the runway surface following rain can be hard to detect…(and) can adversely affect the outcome of a hard landing.’

After a normal take-off and a 20-minute flight, the pilot was coming in for landing when ‘at about 5ft above ground level, the aircraft sank rapidly.’

A heavy landing followed, detaching the nose wheel and sending the aircraft bouncing back into the air. When it touched down a second time the aircraft dug into the soft ground and flipped onto its roof.

Before the flight, the pilot had assessed the surface as suitable for landing, but was unaware of a soft layer of earth below the runway surface.

The pilot said that the property had received about 100mm of rain over a two-week period. Even though the rain had stopped a week before the incident, cold weather had prevented the soil from drying.

Flight Safety Australia is examining the safety risks involved in landing on unsealed airstrips in the September/October edition of the magazine.

You can read the full report via the ATSB’s website.


  1. Could the lack of mud on the tyres, wing underside or tailplane indicate that perhaps flying technique not the ALA surface had more to do with this event than stated?
    In a C152 you can get away with just chopping the power in the round-out but in a heaver C182 it should be a gradual reduction of power to allow the aircraft to descend while under control and maintaining elevator control.
    That elevator control would give a nose up attitude and a touch down on the main wheels as well as a gradual controlled reduction in altitude.


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