On 18 July 2008, an Airbus A321-200 operated by Thomas Cook Airlines experienced hard landing during night line training with significant aircraft damage not found until several days later. The hard landing was subsequently partially attributed to the inability to directly observe the trainee pitch control inputs on side stick of the A321.
The following is an excerpt from the UK AAIB official report:
[…] “The co pilot disconnected the autopilot at 1,200 ft and left the autothrust engaged. The commander watched the co pilot’s sidestick inputs and recalled that he was “over-active” on the sidestick. He stated that he perceived this to be a common problem with pilots transitioning onto the Airbus aircraft. At 1,000 ft, the commander noted that the operator’s stable approach parameters were satisfied and stated “stable A321” in accordance with the operator’s SOPs.
'The commander gave a coaching narrative during the final moments before touchdown but, as the co-pilot closed the thrust levers, realised that the landing was “going to go wrong”. The aircraft touched down firmly and bounced. The commander stated that he considered taking control, but noted that the co-pilot appeared to be holding the aircraft’s attitude and that intervention was not necessary. Although the commander believed that he made no sidestick input, FDR data showed that he did move it slightly. After the second touchdown, the landing progressed normally.
[…] the aircraft was not flared sufficiently and a ‘hard’ landing, categorised as ‘severe hard’, occurred. The possibility of a landing parameter exceedence was not reported by the crew following discussion with ground engineers who had been on the flight. The presence of a landing parameter exceedence report was identified after a further two sectors had been flown, when an unrelated inspection of the landing gear found a crack in a wing rib gear support lug.”
Four Safety Recommendations have been made:
- "It is recommended that Airbus ensure that the generation of a LOAD<15> report [structural report automatically produced when specific landing conditions are met] by the DMU following a landing parameter exceedence, is indicated to the flight crew involved to enable them to record it in the aircraft’s technical log."
- "It is recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority require operators to provide training in the procedures associated with the reporting of suspected hard landings and the information available to assist decision making on reporting for the aircraft types operated. This should include, for Airbus types, the nature, significance and interpretation of Airbus LOAD<15> reports."
- "It is recommended that the European Aviation Safety Agency ensure adequate training is provided for ground engineers maintaining Airbus aircraft regarding the correct approach to troubleshooting suspected hard landings and the correct means of obtaining and interpreting the Airbus LOAD<15> report."
- "It is recommended that Airbus review their procedure for identifying and classifying parameter exceedences based on data recorded by the aircraft during landing, either to ensure that all sources of recorded data give the same outcome or to provide guidance on which source of data should take precedence in the event of a discrepancy. Changes resulting from this review should be reflected in the relevant maintenance manual tasks."