Approach and Landing Accidents (ALA)

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

On 8 February 2019, a Piper PA46-350P overran the landing runway at Courchevel and collided with a mound of snow which caused significant damage to the aircraft but only one minor injury to a passenger. The Investigation noted that the experience of the Captain was inadequate but the investigation effort was primarily focused on the risk which had resulted from a commercial air transport flight being conducted without complying with the appropriate regulatory requirements for such flights and without either the passengers involved or the State Safety Regulator being aware of this.

On 25 November 2019, an Airbus A330-300 being used for type conversion line training was involved in a landing tailstrike at Yangon during the trainee senior Captain’s first line training flight in benign daylight conditions. The Investigation noted that the optional tailstrike prevention system was not installed on the aircraft involved and found that the operator’s standard calls for excessive pitch during landing had not been made, that the trainee had misinterpreted the Training Captain’s pitch attitude guidance during the landing and that the Training Captain was only used to having to take over control when working with junior pilots.

On 25 March 2018, an ATR 42-500 main landing gear bay door weighing 15 kg detached shortly after a night descent had begun but this was unknown until the flight arrived at Aurillac. The Investigation found that the root cause of the detachment was a loose securing nut which had triggered a sequence of secondary failures within a single flight which culminated in the release of the door. It was concluded that the event highlighted specific and systemic weakness in relevant airworthiness documentation and practice in relation to the lost door and the use of fasteners on this aircraft type generally.

On 12 October 2019, an ATR 42-500 on which Captain upgrade line training was being conducted encountered mild clear air turbulence soon after descent began and despite setting flight idle power, a concurrent speed increase led to concern at a possible VMO exceedence. An abrupt and ultimately simultaneous manual increase in pitch attitude followed leading to serious injury to the unsecured cabin crew which rendered them unfit to work. The Investigation found that the upset - a change in pitch from -2.3° to +6.3°in one second - was almost entirely due to pitch input from both pilots rather than turbulence.

On 6 June 2020, a Boeing 787-10 on approach at Abu Dhabi began a low go around from an RNAV(RNP) approach when it became obvious to the crew that the aircraft was far lower than it should have been but were unaware why this occurred until an ATC query led them to recognise that the wrong QNH had been set with recognition of the excessively low altitude delayed by haze limiting the PAPI range. The Investigation found that advice of MSAW activations which would have enabled the flight crew to recognise their error were not advised to them.

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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

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