Investigation faults "disorganised" and "unprepared" captain and first officer, but union blocks key recommendation

Disagreement between Luxair and its pilots' union is preventing implementation of one of the key recommendations in a final report that severely criticises the crew of a Fokker 50 that suffered a fatal crash in June last year.

The report on the 6 November 2002 accident also extensively questions the airline's hiring and training practices, and notes that Fokker's design did not prevent the crew from selecting ground-idle while in flight - the final error in a chain that led to the crash.

Of the 22 occupants, only the captain and one passenger survived when the aircraft, LX-LGB, crashed on finals to a foggy Luxembourg Findel airport in daytime.

The investigators say the captain, 26, with 2,864h on-type, and the first officer, 32, with 443h on-type, were "disorganised", "unprepared", and probably suffering from "get-home-itis".

The captain put the power levers into the beta range while trying to regain the glidepath from above after beginning a go-around due to poor visibility, and then reversing his decision - all without communicating with the first officer. He had earlier begun what should have been a Category II approach without briefing his colleague.

The report states: "The initial cause of the accident was the acceptance by the crew of the approach clearance although they were not prepared for it, namely the absence of preparation for a go-around. It led the crew to perform a series of improvised actions that ended in the prohibited override of the primary stop on the power levers."

It adds: "All applicable procedures as laid down in the operations manual were violated at some stage of the approach. All this created an environment whereby privately designed actions were initiated to make a landing possible."

Luxair says it has since removed from office its staff in charge of quality and operations, and its safety officer, and is working on a range of improvements to its training - particularly regarding cockpit resource management.

But the carrier says it cannot comply with the report's recommendation to introduce an operational flight data monitoring programme, widely used elsewhere, because of opposition from the pilots' union - the Airline Pilots Association of Luxembourg (ALPL). Its Boeing and Embraer fleets, although not the Fokkers, are equipped with the recorders, but the data is not used.

The airline says: "The pilots are saying that it would be a violation of their privacy. For the company it is a big problem. We have been accused in the report of not making safety our number one priority - but we cannot implement this programme."

The ALPL was unavailable for comment.

Source: Flight International