Contribution of Unstabilised Approaches to Aircraft Accidents and Incidents

Contribution of Unstabilised Approaches to Aircraft Accidents and Incidents

Description

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) established that unstabilised approaches were a causal factor in 66 % of 76 approach and landing accidents and incidents worldwide between 1984 and 1997.

It was found that many low and slow (low energy) approaches have resulted in controlled flight into terrain (Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)) because of inadequate vertical position awareness. Low energy approaches may also result in "loss-of-control" or "land-short" events.

High energy approaches have resulted in runway excursions and also have contributed to inadequate situational awareness in some of CFIT accidents.

It was found that a crew’s inability to control the aircraft to the desired flight parameters (airspeed, altitude, rate of descent) was a major factor in 45 % of 76 approach-and-landing accidents and serious incidents.

Flight-handling difficulties have occurred in situations which included rushing approaches, attempts to comply with demanding ATC clearances, adverse weather conditions and improper use of automation.

Consequences

Unstabilised approaches can be followed by:

  1. Runway excursions
  2. Landing short
  3. Controlled flight into terrain
  4. Hard landings
  5. Tail Strike

Contributory factors

Weather conditions or approach types which can increase the chances of an unstabilised approach are:

  1. wake turbulence
  2. strong winds
  3. low visibility
  4. heavy precipitation
  5. an approach with no visual references (e.g. night or Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC))
  6. visual approach
  7. circling approach

Aircraft Accidents and Incidents Related to Unstabilised Approach Listed on SKYbrary

On 31 January 2022, a Bombardier Challenger 604 pilot lost control during the final stages of a London Stansted night crosswind landing. A bounced nose-gear-first touchdown was followed by a brief runway excursion onto grass before a return to the runway and a climb away. A diversion to London Gatwick followed without further event but subsequent inspection revealed structural and other damage sufficient to result in the aircraft being declared an economic hull loss. The Stansted touchdown was found to have occurred after a premature flare at idle thrust continued towards the stall and a momentary stick pusher activation occurred.

On 27 January 2020, an MD83 made an unstabilised tailwind non-precision approach to Mahshahr with a consistently excessive rate of descent and corresponding EGPWS Warnings followed by a very late nose-gear-first touchdown. It then overran the runway end, continued through the airport perimeter fence and crossed over a ditch before coming to a stop partly blocking a busy main road. The aircraft sustained substantial damage and was subsequently declared a hull loss but all occupants completed an emergency evacuation uninjured. The accident was attributed to the actions of the Captain which included not following multiple standard operating procedures.

On 28 April 2018, a Dassault Falcon F900B came into close proximity with a Beech B36T Bonanza at the uncontrolled VFR-only aerodrome at Bremgarten during its tailwind approach to runway 23 made without contacting the designated Flight Information frequency as the other aircraft was on approach to runway-in-use 05 and in contact with Flight Information. The Beech pilot took avoiding action by turning north and climbing in order to avoid a collision. The Falcon 900 crew had not prepared for the approach which was then unstabilised with late gear extension and multiple EGPWS ‘SINK RATE’ warnings annunciated.

On 15 January 2023, an ATR 72-500 positioning visually for an approach to Pokhara suddenly departed controlled flight and impacted terrain. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and all 71 occupants were killed. A type-experienced Training Captain was overseeing new airport familiarisation for a Line Captain acting as Pilot Flying. The Training Captain unintentionally feathered both propellers in response to a call for Flaps 30 but did not recognise their error or respond to calls that no power was coming from the engines. The airline’s operational safety-related processes and Regulatory oversight of them were both assessed as comprehensively inadequate.

On 29 November 2017, a Boeing 737-900 on an ILS approach at Atlanta became unstable after the autothrottle and autopilot were both disconnected and was erroneously aligned with an occupied taxiway parallel to the intended landing runway. A go-around was not commenced until the aircraft was 50 feet above the ground after which it passed low over another aircraft on the taxiway. The Investigation found that the Captain had not called for a go around until well below the Decision Altitude and had then failed to promptly take control when the First Officer was slow to begin climbing the aircraft.

 

Stabilised Approach Awareness Toolkit for ATC

Further Reading

CANSO

Part of the Stabilised Approach Awareness Toolkit for ATC

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