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Poor crew decisions and support cited in Air India A320 accident

India’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has found a number of organisational and human errors contributed to a landing accident involving an Air India Airbus A320 on 5 January 2014.

The aircraft, registered VT-ESH, was operating flight from Imphal and Guwahati to Delhi when it was forced to divert due to poor visibility at Delhi.

Listed alternate airports were Lucknow and Jaipur, however weather information was not provided by the flight dispatchers, nor were any weather updates sought by the flight crew for either airport. The aircraft was not equipped with aircraft crew address and reporting system (ACARS), but had VHF/HF radios.

After an initial missed approach at Lucknow, the crew decided to land at Jaipur. During its descent at 5,000ft, air traffic control advised the flight crew that the weather was deteriorating rapidly, and visibility was only 400m.

The captain elected to fly the approach manually, during which the aircraft deviated to the left of the runway centreline, touching down on soft ground to the left of the runway around 21:10 local time. During the touchdown and landing roll, the visibility was zero and crew were unable to see any reference cues.

The aircraft skidded on the unpaved surface during the rollout, and its left wing impacted trees causing major damage to the leading edge and a number of spars. The left main landing gear was also heavily damaged. The aircraft turned then right and entered the runway before coming to a halt.

Although the aircraft was written-off, there were no injures to the six crew and 173 passengers on board.

The AAIB found that the crew erred in choosing to divert to an airfield with reducing visbility, which saw the crew attempt a manual landing below minima conditions.

It also found that Air India lacked operational supervision and ground support to the crew, a lack of oversight of flights operations and complacency in its quality assurance systems that failed to capture hazards.

Amongst a number of recommendations, the AAIB called on airlines to develop fuel consumption monitoring systems specific to the each aircraft and during seasonal weather trends to avoid any error in fuel uplift.

It also recommended that major airports are update flight crews with their latest weather reports, and for alternate airports on request, especially if conditions deteriorate. Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation was recommended to consider keeping all weather operations simulator training separate during initial and recurrent training, as well as to ensure that low visibility procedures takes place when visibility occurs below 800m.

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