On 14 December 2016, an Airbus A320 (VT-IGK) being operated by Indigo on a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Delhi to Raipur as 6E-201 during which a trainee First Officer was operating under supervision made a very hard bounced landing after a day VMC ILS approach which considerably exceeded the 2.6 g airframe structural limit despite the Training Captain taking over during the flare after assessing it to be insufficient.
An Investigation in accordance with Annex 13 principles was carried out by the Indian DGCA. Relevant data from both the FDR and CVR were successfully downloaded and formed the basis of the Investigation.
The 40 year-old Training Captain had a total of 9,801 flying hours experience which included 6,827 hours in command on type. He had no other command experience on multi crew aircraft types but had previously been a First Officer on the A320 and the Bombardier CRJ-200. The 35 year-old trainee First Officer had a total of 351 hours flying experience of which 69 hours were on type under training. She had qualified as an A320 First Officer in June 2016.
It was established that the flight involved was the first of the duty for both pilots but that the First Officer had positioned on duty from Bangalore during the morning whereas the Captain had reported for the flight at Delhi. The line training flight, with the First Officer acting as PF had proceeded normally until on ILS approach to the 2,286 metre-long runway 24 at Raipur. The aircraft ELW was 3 tonnes below the 64.5 tonne MLW and surface wind reports from Raipur indicated a very small tailwind component and otherwise benign conditions. The Training Captain reported - and the CVR data confirmed - that as the flight proceeded, the First Officer had been responding to all his training instructions and communications with ATC. A standard approach briefing was carried out prior to the top of descent and thereafter the Captain had been “continuously briefing the First Officer for any deviation or inappropriate control input by her during the approach”.
The aircraft was fully configured by 1500 feet agl and stabilised by 1000 feet agl and once the AP was disconnected, “minor deviations in pitch and roll were being corrected by the First Officer as per the instructions of the Captain as well as on her own”. However, as the aircraft passed 200 feet agl, FDR data showed that the rate of descent had increased to almost 900 fpm with no change to the thrust setting and only marginal pitch input. Passing 100 feet agl, the rate of descent had reduced to 600 fpm but then began to increase with no change to pitch input or thrust setting.
As the aircraft passed 50 feet agl, the Training Captain stated that he had observed a “weak flare” (the FDR data shows that there was no flare) and had advised the First Officer to increase pitch but had received no response and the recorded pitch angle - 2.1° - did not change until the Captain took over at 8 feet agl and, with a 16° control column input, immediately increased pitch to almost 5° leaving the thrust setting unchanged. One second later, with the recorded rate of descent still around 500 fpm, the main gear hit the runway with a recorded 2.5 g vertical acceleration. A 4 second bounce to 9 feet agl during which the Thrust Lever Angle (TLA) was briefly increased from 22.5° to 36.5° before being set to idle was followed by a final touchdown at a recorded 3.2 g with a 6.3° pitch attitude and an almost 700 fpm rate of descent. CVR data confirmed the Captain’s statement that when he announced he was taking control, there was a continued lack of response from the First Officer. In a statement to the aircraft operator, the First Officer subsequently accepted that “she was totally focussed on maintaining the (runway) centreline and did not (make an) adequate flare input in time”.
The aircraft was withdrawn from service and preliminary inspections and tests carried out at Raipur with no findings of damage. After five days a special permit to position it to Delhi for further maintenance assessment required by Airbus was obtained and once there, the main and nose landing gear were replaced in accordance with AMM requirements and the aircraft was released to service on 30 December.
The Probable Cause of the accident was determined to be the inadequate landing flare made by the First Officer.
Contributory Factors were also identified as “the Captain’s delay in deciding to take control and as a result not initiating a timely go-around”.
Safety Recommendations were confined to a requirement that the pilots involved should both receive necessary corrective training.
The Final Report of the Investigation was completed on 4 January 2019 but not released until 12 February 2020.