Inquiries into a serious hard-landing accident by a MyTravel Airways Airbus A320 in Greece have revealed that instructors had repeatedly expressed concerns over a trainee co-pilot's landing techniques in the weeks before.
In the wake of last year's incident at Kos, the operator - now Thomas Cook Airlines - introduced additional specific simulator training, focusing on landing techniques, and a tighter review process for assessing students' progress. It also requires training captains to undertake specific landing handling training before instructing relatively-inexperienced student pilots.
During a VOR/DME approach to Kos on 5 July 2007, the aircraft flared late and struck the runway hard, with a deceleration that registered 3.15g. After the initial contact, the captain immediately took over but the aircraft bounced another three times before settling. Both main-gear assemblies were damaged and subsequently replaced.
While sloping terrain before the runway can make the Kos approach deceptive, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) points out that the trainee pilot - who had 381hr, with 147hr on type - had previously come under scrutiny for poor landing technique.
The pilot had started commercial jet training, under a scheme affiliated with the carrier, six months before the incident. During extensive A320 simulator work his landing abilities became "recurring theme of concern", but the AAIB adds: "Although instructors identified that more time needed to be spent training the co-pilot to land, this time was not found and the training was repeatedly deferred."
Doubts persisted through base training and then line training, and relevant landing technique notes were made a "number of times" with many earlier comments being repeated.
"The aircraft demands a relatively high level of 'assured' skill from the trainee their ability to land the aircraft correctly, consistently, should not be in doubt before base training commences and certainly not in doubt during line training where passengers are carried," says the AAIB's inquiry.
Flight-data monitoring in May and June 2007 showed that the co-pilot was involved in further firm landings, and he underwent additional training. After the Kos accident, the airline's flight safety department found that, during line training, the captain had intervened in a third of the co-pilot's 28 landings.
The AAIB's inquiry, while acknowledging issues with the Kos approach, concentrates heavily on the co-pilot's training, pointing out that detailed analysis of his landing technique was not recorded until after several sessions of formal simulator training, long after instructors were aware of a strong need for improvement.
It also states that his line training deviated from guidelines in the carrier's operations manual, with respect to the consistency of instructor and aircraft type, and the proportion of daylight landings.
"Many of the factors relevant to this serious incident were discussed at an operator's training meeting, slightly more than a week before the accident," says the AAIB. "It is very possible that, had the accident not occurred so soon after this meeting, the operator would have had time to put measures into place addressing many of the factors associated with this event."