The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has highlighted the risks of introducing theoretical training scenarios during periods of high workload in a report into an incident involving a Jetstar Airbus A320 aircraft.

On 25 June 2013, the crew operating the A320, registered VH-JQG, was conducting an instrument landing approach to Sydney airport.

The crew consisted of a training captain, who was the pilot flying, and a trainee first officer who acted as the pilot monitoring.

In the previous turnaround in Ballina, the training captain briefed the first officer that he would fly an ILS approach with autoland, during which he would verbally introduce various scenarios during the approach.

As the aircraft descended through 1,500ft with the runway in sight, the captain retarded the thrust levers to idle, disconnecting the autothrust system and activating the master caution alarm. The captain then asked the first officer if the approach could be continued using manual thrust.

“After briefly referring to the Quick Reference Handbook, the crew extended the landing gear and wing flap, and finalised the pre-landing checklist,” the report reads. “The flight crew then became involved in a discussion about the requirements in the handbook for the proposed approach.”

With the aircraft losing airspeed, the captain began to apply thrust when the aircraft’s alpha-floor protection system activated, automatically applying take-off/go around thrust. The crew subsequently performed a missed approach before going around and landing safely.

The ATSB says that it found that both pilots were “distracted by their consideration of a training scenario”, and thus did not identify the airspeed slowing.

It also found that the captain directed the first officer to set hypothetical decision heights in the autoflight system in aid of the training scenario.

“These heights were not applicable to the instrument approach being flown and the practice was not approved by Jetstar. The resulting increased workload impacted on the first officer’s capacity to effectively fulfil the pilot monitoring role,” the ATSB says.

Following the incident, Jetstar says it issued a memo to its training pilots highlighting requirements for autoland training, reiterating that flight crew must only use the minima for the approach being flown.

The ATSB adds that the occurrence “demonstrates the risks associated with conducting training exercises during periods of high workload. Training pilots need to be cognisant of trainee experience and capability and ensure that the training exercise never compromises the primary task of monitoring/flying the aircraft.”

Source: Cirium Dashboard