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Approach and Landing Accidents (ALA)

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Category: Controlled Flight Into Terrain Controlled Flight Into Terrain
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Definitions

  • Approach: The phase of flight starting when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew descends below 5,000 feet AGL with the intention to conduct an approach and ending when the aircraft crosses the approach end of the landing runway (runway threshold) or at the commencement of a go around maneuver.
  • Landing: The phase of flight starting when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew crosses the approach end of the landing runway (runway threshold) and ending when the aircraft safely exits the landing runway, or at the commencement of a go around manoeuvre.
  • Approach and Landing phase of flight: The phase of flight starting when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew descends below 5,000 feet AGL with the intention to conduct an approach and ending when the aircraft safely exits the landing runway, or the flight crew conducts a go around and flys the aircraft above 5,000 feet AGL enroute to another airport.
  • Approach and Landing Accident: An accident that occurs during the approach and landing phase of flight.

Description

Approach and landing is the highest risk phase of flight, accounting for over 50 percent of all accidents at every level of aviation. Many types of accidents can happen during the approach and landing phase of flight. The most common types of approach and landing accidents are; CFIT (controlled flight into terrain), LOC (loss of control), and runway excursions.

Considerations

Because of its inherent risk there have been many international efforts addressing the approach and landing phase of flight. These efforts have primarily addressed the highest risk areas such as CFIT and runway excursions. They have addressed all aspects of approach and landing accidents, and in addition they also addressed all the responsible parties involved with reducing the risk of approach and landing accidents. These parties include the aircraft manufacturers, aircraft operators, aircrews, air traffic management, regulators, and airports. Many interventions have been created to assist in reducing the risk of accidents in the approach and landing phase of flight. One of these is stabilized approach criteria, which are designed to assist the crew in flying a safe approach and landing. Another intervention is safe landing criteria, which assist the crew in reducing the risk during the landing phase of flight.

Summary

Approach and landing is the highest risk phase of flight. Many types of accidents can happen during the approach and landing phase of flight. Several international safety efforts have addressed the risks of approach and landing and many interventions have been developed to address these risks. These interventions address risk in all aspects of the approach and landing phase of flight, and apply to aircraft manufacturers, aircraft operators, aircrews, air traffic management, regulators, and airports.

Accidents and Incidents

  • A306, East Midlands UK, 2011 (On 10 January 2011, an Air Atlanta Icelandic Airbus A300-600 on a scheduled cargo flight made a bounced touchdown at East Midlands and then attempted a go around involving retraction of the thrust reversers after selection out and before they had fully deployed. This prevented one engine from spooling up and, after a tail strike during rotation, the single engine go around was conducted with considerable difficulty at a climb rate only acceptable because of a lack of terrain challenges along the climb out track.)
  • A306, vicinity Birmingham AL USA, 2013 (On 14 August 2013, a UPS Airbus A300-600 crashed short of the runway at Birmingham Alabama on a night IMC non-precision approach after the crew failed to go around at 1000ft aal when unstabilised and then continued descent below MDA until terrain impact. The Investigation attributed the accident to the individually poor performance of both pilots, to performance deficiencies previously-exhibited in recurrent training by the Captain and to the First Officer's failure to call in fatigued and unfit to fly after mis-managing her off duty time. A Video was produced by NTSB to further highlight human factors aspects.)
  • A320, Hiroshima Japan, 2015 (On 14 April 2015, a night RNAV(GNSS) approach to Hiroshima by an Airbus A320 was continued below minima without the prescribed visual reference and subsequently touched down 325 metres before the runway after failing to transition to a go around initiated from a very low height. The aircraft hit a permitted ground installation, then slid onto the runway before veering off it and stopping. The aircraft sustained extensive damage and an emergency evacuation followed with 28 of the 81 occupants sustaining minor injuries. The Investigation noted the unchallenged gross violation of minima by the Captain.)
  • A320, Jaipur India, 2014 (On 5 January 2014, an Airbus A320 was unable to land at Delhi due to visibility below crew minima and during subsequent diversion to Jaipur, visibility there began to deteriorate rapidly. A Cat I ILS approach was continued below minima without any visual reference because there were no other alternates within the then-prevailing fuel endurance. The landing which followed was made in almost zero visibility and the aircraft sustained substantial damage after touching down to the left of the runway. The Investigation found that the other possible alternate on departure from Delhi had materially better weather but had been ignored.)
  • A320, Khartoum Sudan, 2005 (On 11 March 2005, an Airbus A321-200 operated by British Mediterranean Airways, executed two unstable approaches below applicable minima in a dust storm to land in Khartoum Airport, Sudan. The crew were attempting a third approach when they received information from ATC that visibility was below the minimum required for the approach and they decided to divert to Port Sudan where the A320 landed without further incident.)
  • A320, vicinity Addis Ababa Ethiopia, 2003 (On 31 March 2003, an A320, operated by British Mediterranean AW, narrowly missed colliding with terrain during a non-precision approach to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.)
  • A320, vicinity Bahrain Airport, Kingdom of Bahrain, 2000 (On 23 August 2000, a Gulf Air Airbus A320 flew at speed into the sea during an intended dark night go around at Bahrain and all 143 occupants were killed. It was subsequently concluded that, although a number of factors created the scenario in which the accident could occur, the most plausible explanation for both the descent and the failure to recover from it was the focus on the airspeed indication at the expense of the ADI and the effect of somatogravic illusion on the recently promoted Captain which went unchallenged by his low-experience First Officer.)
  • A320, vicinity Glasgow UK, 2008 (An Airbus A322 being operated by British Airways on a scheduled passenger flight from London Heathrow to Glasgow was being radar vectored in day IMC towards an ILS approach to runway 23 at destination when an EGPWS Mode 2 Hard Warning was received and the prescribed response promptly initiated by the flight crew with a climb to MSA.)
  • A320, vicinity Naha Okinawa Japan, 2014 (On 28 April 2014, an Airbus A320 making a precision radar approach at Naha in IMC began descent from 1,000 feet QNH at 6nm from touchdown with the autopilot engaged and continued it until successive EGPWS 'PULL UP' Warnings occurred soon after the radar controller had advised four miles from touchdown. Minimum recorded radio height was 242 feet with neither the sea nor the runway in sight. The Investigation noted ineffective alerting by the First Officer, the radar controller's failure to notice the error until just before the EGPWS Warnings and the absence of MSAW annunciations at the controller's position.)
  • A320, vicinity Oslo Norway, 2008 (On 19 December 2008, an Aeroflot Airbus A320 descended significantly below its cleared and acknowledged altitude after the crew lost situational awareness at night whilst attempting to establish on the ILS at Oslo from an extreme intercept track after a late runway change and an unchallenged incorrect readback. The Investigation concluded that the response to the EGPWS warning which resulted had been “late and slow” but that the risk of CFIT was “present but not imminent”. The context for the event was considered to have been poor communications between ATC and the aircraft in respect of changes of landing runway.)
  • A320, vicinity Sochi Russia, 2006 (On 3 May 2006, an Airbus 320 crew failed to correctly fly a night IMC go around at Sochi and the aircraft crashed into the sea and was destroyed. The Investigation found that the crew failed to reconfigure the aircraft for the go around and, after having difficulties with the performance of an auto go-around, had disconnected the autopilot. Inappropriate control inputs, including simultaneous (summed) sidestick inputs by both pilots were followed by an EGPWS PULL UP Warning. There was no recovery and about a minute into the go around, a steep descent into the sea at 285 knots occurred.)
  • A321, vicinity Islamabad Pakistan, 2010 (On 28 July 2010, the crew of an Airbus A321 lost contact with the runway at Islamabad during a visual circling approach and continued in IMC outside the protected area and flying into terrain after repeatedly ignoring EGPWS Terrain Alerts and PULL UP Warnings. The Investigation concluded that the Captain had pre-planned a non-standard circuit which had been continued into IMC and had then failed to maintain situational awareness, control the aircraft through correct FMU inputs or respond to multiple EGPWS Warnings. The inexperienced First Officer appeared unwilling to take control in the absence of corrective action by the Captain.)
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Related Articles

Further Reading

DGAC (France) has published three documents in the English language related to non-stabilised approaches.

Flight Safety Foundation Copies of the FSF ALAR Toolkit on CD may be obtained from the Flight Safety Foundation

Airbus Safety Library

CANSO