Tanzanian investigators have determined that the crew of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300ER abandoned a standard arrival procedure to Kilimanjaro before inadvertently landing at the small Arusha airport.
The preliminary inquiry into the 18 December occurrence found that neither the pilots nor air traffic controllers kept in contact over the aircraft’s position.
While Kilimanjaro’s runway 09 has an instrument landing system, a disabled Cessna Caravan parked some 300m (980ft) from the threshold meant the approach was unavailable. The crew of flight ET815, still 20min from arrival, was advised instead to use the reciprocal runway 27 which does not have ILS.
The 767 was cleared to descent to 12,000ft and follow the EVATO 1A arrival pattern to Kilimanjaro, and was instructed to report on making visual contact with the runway.
But the crew did not confirm passing the mandatory reporting waypoint LOSIN – some 60nm west of the airport – and only made a position report when 43nm from the Kilimanjaro VOR.
Around 7min before the expected arrival time, the pilot told air traffic control that the airport was in sight and that he would join a left downwind approach to runway 27. He was asked to report on left base, and did so having confirmed the location of the Cessna and the available landing distance of 3,300m.
Tanzania’s ministry of transport, in an Air Accident Investigation Branch bulletin obtained by Flightglobal, says the pilot saw an airport during descent and “prematurely abandoned” the assigned arrival procedure – one which would have taken the jet to the TESOV waypoint and Kilimanjaro’s runway.
The aircraft instead joined a left downwind flightpath to Arusha’s runway 27 while the pilot still believed he was preparing to land at Kilimanjaro. “His downwind position report was not challenged by the Kilimanjaro controller, who should have had him in sight in that position,” the bulletin states.
Although the aircraft was cleared to land the controller was unable to see the jet. He repeatedly tried to contact the flight on the Kilimanjaro radio frequency, with no response, before receiving a telephone call from Arusha control tower telling him the 767 had landed there.
Despite the short Arusha runway the 767 stopped within its 1,640m length, but the jet’s nose-gear and main gear became stuck in soft ground as it attempted to turn around.
The captain had logged 11,000h but the flight was only his second to Kilimanjaro, says the inquiry, although the first officer had flown there three times before. Weather conditions were good at the time.
Investigators have made five safety recommendations, stating that published procedures should always be followed and that crews should make use of available navigation aids and familiarise themselves with geographical features surrounding airports.
None of the 223 occupants was injured. The aircraft was flown out of Arusha two days later, making the 8min flight to Kilimanjaro with five crew.