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Hard A321 landing led Germania to limit manual flights

Investigators have disclosed that Germania banned pilots' flying manual visual approaches under supervision, after an unstable descent by a relatively inexperienced first officer led an Airbus A321 to land hard at Fuerteventura.

The first officer had logged 96h on type before conducting the ILS approach to runway 01 using manual control of the thrust and attitude.

After the A321 was established on final the first officer disengaged the autothrust. On short final, however, the aircraft's airspeed declined and the jet dipped below the glideslope.

The captain pointed this out and the first officer increased thrust to compensate. But this was insufficient and the captain repeated the suggestion, before realising the aircraft was sinking rapidly while close to the ground.

Although the captain took control to execute a go-around, this was too late to avoid a hard 3.3g impact with the runway before the aircraft became airborne again. The first officer carried out the second approach, with automation, and the aircraft landed without further incident 9min later.

Spanish investigation authority CIAIAC says the carrier acknowledged that its Airbus crews were "not well trained" for manual approaches owing to a "routine practice" of using automatic systems.

The captain had believed that the first officer, despite having less than 100h on type, was sufficiently proficient to operate with fewer automated flight systems – a viewpoint supported by the pilot's training record.

He had informed the first officer that most pilots in training were reticent and hesitant to use manual thrust, and suggested flying the approach without autopilot or autothrust. Weather conditions were good and the crew had visual contact with the runway.

The first officer had prior experience and was confident, according to the captain's testimony to the inquiry, and appreciated the opportunity.

But CIAIAC says the decision not to use the automatic systems contributed to the hard landing and that the decision to execute a go-around was "late".

Germania subsequently prohibited flying manually, with manual thrust, during supervised visual approaches on 22 July last year, six days after the Fuerteventura event. CIAIAC adds that the carrier has also been redefining conditions and restrictions for manual flight.

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