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Go-around would have avoided A330 hard landing: ATSB

The captain of a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300 aircraft should have initiated a go-around to avoid the hard landing it made at Melbourne Tullamarine airport on 15 March 2015.

The final report on the incident by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that the A330, registered 9M-MTA, experienced a downward acceleration of 2.6g at touchdown, requiring the landing gear to be changed before it returned to service.

As the captain was flying the approach, he disconnected the autopilot when the A330 was around 700ft above ground level. This was accompanied by frequent and heavy inputs to the sidestick controls as the precision approach path indicator lights showed that the jet was coming in under the required glidescope for the runway.

The captain attempted to recapture the glidescope when the aircraft was around 60ft above ground level by moving the throttles to the take-off/go-around detent, which caused the flight mode annunciator on the primary flight display to change modes.

The first officer, as the pilot monitoring, noticed the change in modes and assumed that a go-around was taking place and "awaited further announcement from the captain." Instead, the captain reduced the thrust levels, at which point the first officer noticed that the aircraft was not flaring, and both pilots applied nose-up inputs to their sidestick controls, just as the aircraft touched down.

The aircraft experienced a vertical acceleration of around 700ft/min on at touchdown, and came down around 170m from the runway's landing threshold.

There were no injuries as a result of the incident, however a number of landing gear components had been stressed beyond their design limits and required replacing and supplemental inspections.

Company procedures called for the crew to initiate a go-around if the approach becomes unstable at any point below 500ft above ground level, with the pilot monitoring the approach to communicate with the pilot flying, or even take over the approach if necessary.

"The captain and first officer advised at interview that, in retrospect, they should have conducted a go-around in accordance with the operator's training procedures," says the ATSB.

It also noted that communication between the two pilots was inadequate, which led to a "lack of recognition of the undesirable flight state and the continuation of an unstable approach."

The ATSB adds that the incident highlights the importance of a stable approach, and called on pilots to maintain a philosophy of "if in doubt, go around."

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