On 16 July 2010, a Bombardier DHC 8-300 being operated by South African Express Airways hit an animal during a night landing in normal ground visibility at Kimberley after a passenger flight from Johannesburg. The nose landing gear took a direct hit and collapsed but after a temporary loss of directional control, the runway centreline was regained and the aircraft brought to a stop. A ‘MAYDAY’ call was made by the aircraft commander during the deceleration. None of the 44 occupants were injured.
An Investigation was carried out by the South African CAA AIID. It was noted that the aircraft had sustained substantial damage to the nose landing gear and lower nose fuselage structure as a result of the impact, which had killed the animal, subsequently identified as an aardvark. The collision was found to have occurred 470 metres from the landing threshold of the 3000 metre long runway when the nose landing gear was still off the ground with the aircraft finally coming to a stop nearly two thirds of the way along the runway.
A view of the aircraft as it came to rest on the runway with the nose gear collapsed backwards (Source: the Final Report of the Investigation)
In respect of the exclusion of hazardous wildlife from an aerodrome, the requirement in ICAO Annex 14 Volume 1 that “a fence or other suitable barrier shall be provided on an aerodrome to prevent the entrance to the movement area of animals large enough to be a hazard to aircraft” was not being met in respect of maintaining the ongoing integrity of the installed fence. The Investigation found widespread evidence of wildlife access to the airfield perimeter and regular reports of wildlife sightings within it including aardvark and antelope.
It was noted that the aerodrome provided all three needs of wildlife - the availability of food, water and shelter proving a good incentive for animals to burrow under the fence. In particular, hundreds of termite mounds containing the insects which are the staple diet of the aardvark were found just below grass height within the enclosed area.
It was found also that “neither the Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs) Part 139 nor the relevant Technical Standard (SA-CATS-AH) provides proper guidance material on the issue of wildlife management".
It was concluded that although appropriate mechanisms appeared to be in place and the “aerodrome licence holder was fully aware of the threat posed by the wild life "they had failed to ensure that there were adequate measures in place to contain the risk posed by larger animals. It was noted that “ICAO Doc 9137 Part 3 (lacked) content and guidance material on the subject of wildlife management” and that “(this) document contains a substantial amount of information on bird-life management, but very little to none on wildlife management as a holistic programme”.
The Probable Cause of the Serious Incident was determined by the Investigation to be that “during landing the nose landing gear of the aircraft collapsed backwards after it had collided with a wild animal on the runway”.
The following Contributory Factors were also identified:
- The aerodrome fence had been constructed without a proper foundation, which allowed animals to dig holes and trenches underneath the fence in order to gain access to the aerodrome property, thereby easily migrating from one side of the fence to the other.
- The fact that a section of the perimeter fence that used to be electrified was disabled due to theft of the solar panel powering the fence, was considered to be a significant contributory factor in the migration of animals along the fence.
- An aardvark and other types of animals were spotted on the aerodrome by (RFFS) personnel during their runway and taxiway inspections over the period of 12 to 16 July 2010. However, no corrective measures were taken by the aerodrome licence holder to address this shortcoming (i.e., setting traps to catch these animals or bring in professional wildlife capturing teams to catch and relocate these animals).
- The open areas between the runways and taxiways were found to consist mainly of savanna-type grassland. The grass was found to be approximately 0.5 m in height, which acted as a good camouflage for several species of animals, making it difficult to observe and track these animals, especially at night.
- the fact that aerodrome maintenance personnel members were not on duty over weekends to ensure that the integrity of the perimeter fence had not been jeopardised and if so, to take corrective actions by closing all possible holes/trenches dug underneath the perimeter fence, was considered to be a significant contributory factor to this accident.
As a result of the Investigation, the following Safety Recommendations were recommended to the Director of Civil Aviation for implementation:
- that the SACAA Aerodrome Safety Department, as well as the Aviation Security Division, institute an immediate corrective action plan to address the aerodrome perimeter
- that the SACAA Aerodrome Safety Department, as well as the Aviation Security Division, institute an immediate corrective action plan to address the aerodrome perimeter fence at (Kimberley). The investigation revealed that the aerodrome lacked adequate safety oversight in this regard.
- that the following be considered in order to minimize the risk of wild animals (and possible perpetrators) entering the aerodrome boundary.
- The regulating authority to inspect the aerodrome perimeter fence and give guidance to the license holder whereby the fence should be upgraded to an acceptable risk level.
- That the grass on the aerodrome be cut short and maintained accordingly in order for (RFSS) personnel to conduct proper aerodrome inspections, with special reference to animals/wild life roaming on the aerodrome. Should it be required, the appropriate action can then be taken to minimise the risk for landing aircraft. Proper grass maintenance will also reduce bird activity at the aerodrome, as grass is common vegetation on an aerodrome.
- that the aerodrome licence holder, in collaboration with Nature Conservation and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, engage on a proactive programme to manage the termite problem at (Kimberley)
- that night operations at the aerodrome are restricted until the aerodrome licence holder has implemented a corrective action plan in accordance with the wildlife animal management programme.
- that an updated/amended copy of the Aerodrome Operations Manual be placed on record with the regulating authority.
- that the airport manual on record under the heading Wildlife Hazard Management (WHM) (…..should be revised) to clearly indicate what the role and responsibilities are of each and every person (listed in it) as well as the external role players involved in such a programme with their up to date contact details.
- that the aerodrome licence holder should amend the form “ACSA Logbook for Daily Perimeter Fence Patrol” with immediate effect (to include appropriate missing information including action taken to restore perimeter fence integrity.
- that the aerodrome licence holder should have a designated wildlife control officer who should head the wildlife control committee. This person should be schooled in the field to deal with issues from an environmental perspective.
- that the regulating authority establish a designated office (desk/person) to manage and ensure compliance with regard to a wildlife management programme at all licensed aerodromes in South Africa. Such office / desk / person(s) should also ensure that a wildlife reporting database is developed and kept up to date by engaging with all industry stakeholders/role players. The primary function of such a data base should be to identify trends at aerodromes, and to implement corrective actions in order to minimize the risk associated with wildlife activity at such aerodromes.
- that the regulating authority draft an official letter to the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) with reference to the guidance material contained in ICAO Doc 9137 Part 3 read in conjunction with Doc 9332, with regard to wildlife management, recommending that ICAO Doc 9137 Part 3 be amended to incorporate such guidance material as a holistic approach towards aerodrome/aviation safety.
- that the Division of Air Safety Infrastructure at SACAA increases its ad hoc surveillance inspections at aerodromes known to be prone to wildlife activity and ensures that all the required measures are being taken to eliminate the risk of wildlife posing a threat towards landing, departing and manoeuvring aircraft.
- that the SACAA Division of Aviation Security increases its ad hoc / surveillance inspections at aerodromes known to be prone to wildlife activity.
The Final Report of the Investigation CA18/2/3/8805 was reviewed and amended by the Advisory Safety Panel on 16 November 2010 and subsequently published.