Cockpit transcripts indicate that spoilers did not activate on the TAM Airbus A320 which overran at Sao Paulo Congonhas Airport last month, and that the crew were unable to decelerate the aircraft after it landed.
The transcript confirms the pilots were aware of the jet’s non-functioning thrust-reverser and the strong possibility the runway would be slippery. But there is no obvious evidence of a go-around attempt.
Preliminary drafts of the cockpit-voice recorder transcript, released by investigators, reveal nothing abnormal about the descent as flight JJ3054 from Porto Alegre prepared to touch down at Congonhas on 17 July.
Approximately five minutes before the aircraft landed the commander highlights the fact that the right-hand thrust-reverser has been deactivated, stating: “Remember we only have one reverse.” The co-pilot acknowledges this, responding: “Yes, only the left.”
Shortly after passing the outer marker beacon, and while still some 2nm from the airport, the crew specifically requests information about the runway condition at Congonhas, aware that rain could affect deceleration on the short strip.
“It’s wet and it is slippery,” replies the Congonhas tower controller, and the commander mentions the conditions aloud. The controller also repeats the warning about the runway after giving the A320 clearance to land.
There is evidence, including a request to inhibit the glide slope warning system, that suggests the commander conducted the approach slightly below the glide slope in order to touch down early on the short runway.
Two seconds from touchdown the recorder picks up the sound of thrust levers being moved and increased engine noise. As the aircraft lands, the co-pilot refers again to reversing only the left engine, but straight away afterwards states: “Spoilers nothing.”
Spoilers would normally be deployed on landing to reduce lift from the wings and ensure that the aircraft makes firm contact with the runway surface.
While video surveillance images from Congonhas Airport have shown the aircraft was still travelling at around 100kt as it approached the end of the runway, the transcript gives no clear evidence that the crew attempted to initiate a go-around. The co-pilot repeated a call to “turn” the jet immediately before it overran and was destroyed, with the loss of everyone on board.
No details have been released about the position of the A320’s thrust levers at the time, or any further technical information on possible reasons for crew’s inability to slow the aircraft. Airbus, however, has released a specific reminder to operators to ensure A320 thrust levers are set to ‘idle’ during the landing flare.