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 13 September 2016, a Boeing 737-300 made an unstabilised approach to Wamena and shortly after an EGPWS ‘PULL UP’ warning due to the high rate of descent, a very hard landing resulted in collapse of the main landing gear, loss of directional control and a lateral runway excursion. The Investigation found that the approach had been carried out with both the cloudbase and visibility below the operator-specified minima and noted that the Captain had ignored a delayed go around suggestion from the First Officer because he was confident he could land safely as the two aircraft ahead had done.

On 13 September 2016, a Boeing 737-300 made an unstabilised approach to Wamena and shortly after an EGPWS ‘PULL UP’ warning due to the high rate of descent, a very hard landing resulted in collapse of the main landing gear, loss of directional control and a lateral runway excursion. The Investigation found that the approach had been carried out with both the cloudbase and visibility below the operator-specified minima and noted that the Captain had ignored a delayed go around suggestion from the First Officer because he was confident he could land safely as the two aircraft ahead had done.

On 30 September 2017, an Airbus A320 touched down late after an ILS approach to runway 32 at Sylt with a significant tailwind component being reported and failed to stop before overrunning the end of the runway and subsequently stopped on grass 80 metres beyond it. The Investigation noted that the calculated required landing distance was close to the landing distance available, the actual approach speed was 20 knots above the calculated one and that the aircraft had floated in the flare above a wet runway. It was concluded that the runway excursion was attributable to non-performance of a go-around.

On 15 September 2020, an Airbus A330-300 touched down at Medan partially off the runway as a result of misjudgement by the right seat handling pilot before regaining it and completing the landing roll. The aircraft and some runway lights were damaged. The handling pilot was an A320/A330 dual-rated Instructor Pilot conducting standardisation training on a new Captain who had not flown for 7½ months having himself not flown from the right seat for six months. The continuing Investigation has recommended that the State Safety Regulator issues guidance in support of its temporary alleviations to pilot recency requirements.

On 29 January 2015, a Boeing 737-800 crew attempting to fly an NDB approach to Bergerac, with prior awareness that it would be necessary because of pre-notified ILS and DME unavailability, descended below 800 feet agl in IMC until an almost 1000 feet per minute descent when still over 8 nm from the runway threshold triggered an EGPWS ‘TERRAIN PULL UP’ warning and the simultaneous initiation of a go-around. The Investigation found that the PF First Officer was unfamiliar with NDB approaches but had not advised the Captain which resulted in confusion and loss of situational awareness by both pilots.

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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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