Flying blind

This first appeared as a Comment in the 26 November issue of Flight International

The Tatarstan Air crash at Kazan is yet another piece of evidence that the kind of risk airlines face is changing. Perfectly serviceable aeroplanes are crashing because of pilot misjudgements or ignorance, claiming the lives of their crew and passengers.
This may seem a harsh judgement to make only days after the event, but unless the flight data recorder is lying or the investigator  is misinterpreting the data, the Boeing 737-500 had nothing wrong, but the crew ­became disorientated while carrying out the nighttime go-around, and pushed the aircraft over the apex of the manoeuvre into a 75° nose-down dive to impact.
Once thought of as a routine manoeuvre, entire ­dissertations at operations conferences are now given over to analysing the dangers associated with ­go-arounds. There have now been at least five such fatal accidents and many more near-disasters in the last 20 years. The previously sacred diktat that crews should not land from unstable approaches is itself being de-stabilised by figures that suggest the greater risk is encouraging crews to abandon them.
The Kazan missed approach, like the other fatal ­incidents, occurred at night. Add these to other night loss of control accidents like Air France 447 and the evidence is overwhelming: many pilots who hold an instrument rating can no longer fly on instruments.
This is appalling, but easily corrected by training.


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