Can Planes Land on Grass?

The age old question of can airplanes land on grass has been around since the very first transonic flight over America. Many pilots, most notably WWI & WWII fighter pilots, became quite good at landing their planes on grass. They did not however, account for the local weather conditions that would affect landing on grass in bad weather. Landing on the grass was a big risk for pilots because it took longer to climb into the sky and come down. Time and again, a plane would be unable to make it back home after making the difficult landing.

can planes land on grass

So why did these pilots continue to try and land their planes? One answer might be the simple matter of pride. Pilots would often tell stories of the difficulty they experienced in getting their aircraft to slow down for landing. It seemed as though they were always going to hit a snag. Some pilots would lose their nerve when they actually came down with the plane on their wheels.

Perhaps this is what caused so much mystery surrounding the landing of Air Force planes during WWI and WWII. What if, in some cases, the pilots were not able to land their planes? Were they forced to make a belly landing instead of flying into an accepted runway? What if their fuel ran out and they had no way to get back into the air? The events that would transpire would have a huge impact on the development of aviation.

During World War I, there was much interest in the prospects of flying in bad weather conditions. Most pilots joined the military in an effort to combat the ill effects of air travel. Unfortunately, many of them would experience firsthand the consequences of landing their aircraft on soft, grass surfaces. Grass, in general, is not an acceptable surface to land an aircraft on. It offers little or no traction and presents enormous drag.

Many of these pilots ended up with badly damaged wings. Many more would be killed. Even though many of these stories have been told many years later, the debate over whether or not these accidents were due to sabotage or mechanical failure still rages. To this day, it remains unclear which, if any, part of the aircraft broke off first. Theories abound, but without hard facts, it is difficult to know whether sabotage caused the accident or if the damage was purely mechanical.

The same can be said for the landing of an Air Force helicopter. Whether or not the rotors began to lose traction and ultimately broke off remains unclear. No one can say for sure exactly what happened at any particular point in time. But the general consensus is that the rotors were at least briefly deformed as they came to rest after the helicopter came to rest upon a grass runway. This deformation of the rotor is the primary cause of the problem. Whether or not the rotor blades actually broke off is impossible to tell because the blade edge would have been completely covered by the surrounding soil before the rotors could regain traction and come to rest.

Landing an Air Force helicopter is very different than landing a commercial aircraft. There are no skis to slow the aircraft during landing. If anything, only the weight and pressure of the wind on the tires and air in the tires is sufficient to slow the helicopter to a landing speed.

When an Air Force helicopter lands on grass it is almost certainly going to come in contact with soil. Even if the rotor blades did not break off, the blades could bent or come into contact with soil while the aircraft was in flight. Even if the rotor did not break off, the nose gear (which holds the tail in place) could be bent enough to cause the landing to be less than smooth.

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