Poor airmanship during a critical late stage of a Category IIIA night-time approach led to a TNT Airways Boeing 737-300’s losing its main landing-gear during a balked go-around at East Midlands Airport two years ago.
With the cargo aircraft just 530ft above the ground, air traffic control passed a company message to the crew requesting a diversion to Liverpool. The captain, who was flying the aircraft, attempted to reply but inadvertently disconnected both autopilots.
The jet diverged from the approach path and descended rapidly. The captain tried to re-engage the autopilots, only succeeding with one, and belatedly tried to execute a go-around but the jet struck the ground about 90m (300ft) to left of the runway 27 centreline.
Despite its right main landing-gear being torn off, the aircraft became airborne again. The 737’s right and left trailing-edge flaps were stuck at 40° and 32° respectively and its remaining undercarriage stayed deployed. It diverted to Birmingham for an emergency landing, recorded on video by a police surveillance helicopter.
Neither pilot, the only occupants of the aircraft, was injured in the 15 June 2006 accident.
“Although the circumstances of this event could easily have led to a catastrophic accident, there are few safety recommendations which can be made,” says the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
“This is because actions by individuals which contributed to the accident were either inappropriate or were not in compliance with existing procedures.
“Non-compliance with procedures, whether inadvertent or deliberate, can be difficult to prevent and can only be addressed by effective training and maintaining a culture of adherence to standard operating procedures within an organisation.”
After the accidental disconnection of the autopilots, say the investigators, the crew should have executed a go-around.
In its report the AAIB states that the 737, originally inbound to London Stansted from Liege, had diverted to East Midlands because of unexpected bad weather.
It points out that the Category IIIA approach was the captain’s first in actual conditions since being promoted from co-pilot four months previously, and adds that the co-pilot on the flight “did not appear to have understood” that he could make the go-around call.
“The co-pilot did not call ‘go-around’ until after the aircraft had contacted the ground,” says the AAIB.
Its only safety recommendation advises that TNT Airways should review its operating procedures to ensure that pilots are aware as to when go-around action is needed.
The AAIB adds that while the timing of the original message which distracted the captain was “inappropriate”, revisions to air traffic procedures have already addressed this issue.
Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news