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Investigators detail A330's short landing at Cologne

German investigators probing the short landing by a Hi Fly Airbus A330-200 at Cologne have disclosed that the jet’s descent rate increased after its autopilot was disengaged.

Investigation authority BFU, in an interim statement, says the jet (CS-TQW) touched down 21m short of the runway threshold, damaging runway lighting.

The aircraft had been conducting a night arrival from Reykjavik to runway 32L – the much-longer parallel 32R having been closed – but was unable to accept a satellite-based approach and requested a non-precision approach with radar vectors.

Three pilots had been in the cockpit at the time and the monitoring pilot confirmed visual contact with the approach lights, after which the tower gave landing clearance.

BFU analysis of the flight-data recorder showed that the approach had been automatic from 2,200ft, at an airspeed of 128kt, with a rate of descent around 500-750ft/min.

As the aircraft reached 690ft the autopilot was disconnected – after which, the inquiry says, the rate of descent increased to 895ft/min.

Upon receiving an automated call-out at 30ft, one of the crew members stated: “We are getting slightly low.”

The third pilot, on the jumpseat, noted after the landing that the precision-approach path indicator lights had shown “four red” – suggesting a descent far below the glidepath – while the other two pilots had seen at least three red PAPI lights.

Weather conditions at the time of the landing, on 18 September last year, had been poor, with reduced visibility and light rain.

BFU states that the captain told investigators that the approach had been stable until around 200ft above ground, at which point vertical corrections were made to the flight path.

He also said he was aware that the available runway was short – with an available distance of 1,691m – and that it was wet from the rain, and he wanted to ensure the aircraft was “deliberately” put down firmly.

BFU says the left-hand main landing-gear touched down 21m before the threshold, and the right-hand at 15m before. The right main-gear struck a lamp and sustained tyre damage.

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