Pilots of a Wind Jet Airbus A319 landed far short at Palermo after deciding to continue a non-precision approach at night, in poor weather, despite failing to sight the runway.

Italian investigation authority ANSV has determined that the pilots demonstrated a “poor attitude” towards crew resource management and failed to maintain a sterile cockpit during the descent or carry out proper approach briefings.

The aircraft landed 367m (1,200ft) short of the runway 07 threshold and skidded for 850m, suffering such extensive damage that the twinjet was written off.

ANSV says there was “deliberate disregard” for procedures at the point of reaching the minimum descent altitude, when the crew is supposed to confirm sighting of the runway – and execute a go-around if it is not clearly visible.

The aircraft crossed the minimum altitude of 710ft and the captain urged the first officer, who was flying, to continue the approach, despite being unable to confirm a runway sighting.

ANSV says the first officer subsequently identified the runway at 480ft, and the captain took control of the aircraft. But at 240ft the first officer exclaimed that he saw “four red”, a reference to the precision approach path indicator lamps, which showed the A319 was far below the correct glidepath.

The inquiry says that the adverse weather and darkness, combined with the descent over water, created a “black hole” illusion which led the pilot to believe the aircraft was high on the approach.

This caused him to “abandon” the ideal descent profile and steepen the approach sharply. The A319 crossed over the airport’s terminal VOR beacon at a height of 92ft, less than half the 200ft expected for a normal glide.

Although the aircraft sustained heavy damage during the ground impact and slide, there were no fatalities or even serious injuries among the 129 occupants. Thirty-four passengers and a crew member suffered minor injuries in the 24 September 2010 event.

Source: Cirium Dashboard