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A320, Phoenix AZ USA, 2002

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On 28 August 2002, an America West Airbus A320 operating under an ADD for an inoperative left engine thrust reverser veered off the side of the runway during the landing roll at Phoenix AZ after the Captain mismanaged the thrust levers and lost directional control as a consequence of applying asymmetric thrust. Substantial damage occurred to the aircraft but most occupants were uninjured.
Event Details
When August 2002
Actual or Potential
Event Type
Airworthiness, Human Factors, Runway Excursion
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions On Ground - Normal Visibility
Flight Details
Aircraft AIRBUS A-320
Operator America West Airlines
Domicile United States
Type of Flight Public Transport (Passenger)
Origin Houston Intercontinental
Intended Destination Phoenix/Sky Harbour International Airport
Take off Commenced Yes
Flight Airborne Yes
Flight Completed No
Flight Phase Landing
Location - Airport
Airport Phoenix/Sky Harbour International Airport
Tag(s) Ineffective Monitoring,
Manual Handling,
Procedural non compliance,
Inappropriate crew response - skills deficiency
Tag(s) Directional Control,
Off side of Runway
Tag(s) Emergency Evacuation
System(s) Engine Fuel and Control
Contributor(s) Contributing ADD
Damage or injury Yes
Aircraft damage Major
Injuries Few occupants
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) None Made
Investigation Type
Type Independent


On 28 August 2002, an Airbus A320-200 being operated by America West had touched down in daylight at Phoenix following the completion of an uneventful scheduled service passenger flight when asymmetrical thrust prevented the flight crew from maintaining directional control of the aircraft which veered off the runway. The collapse of the nose landing gear and substantial damage to the forward fuselage followed but only one of the 159 occupants was seriously injured with 9 others receiving minor injuries.

The Investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board (USA) (NTSB) carried out the Accident Investigation. Their Final Report stated that the aircraft had been released to service with an extant Acceptable Deferred Defect stating that the LH engine thrust reverser was inoperative. In accordance with Minimum Equipment List (MEL) requirements, it had been mechanically locked in the stowed position by maintenance personnel and a placard advising the inoperative status of subject reverser placed in the flight deck adjacent to the LH engine thrust lever.

It was further established by the investigation that, contrary to applicable SOPs for an inoperative thrust reverser, the aircraft commander, as PF had after touch down initially moved both thrust levers into the reverse position. When the aircraft began yawing to the right, he responded by moving the LH thrust lever out of reverse to the extent that it reached the TOGA position. With the normally-functioning RH engine thrust lever remaining in the full reverse position, the resultant thrust asymmetry greatly increased the right yaw effect and crew rudder and brake inputs did not adequately compensate so that the aircraft left the paved surface of the runway.

The Investigation concluded that the probable cause(s) of the occurrence was “the captain's failure to maintain directional control and his inadvertent application of asymmetrical engine thrust while attempting to move the LH thrust lever out of reverse” and also noted that “a factor in the accident was the crew's inadequate coordination and crew resource management”.

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