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Wrong-runway landing captain unaware of construction

Investigators probing the landing of an Air India Airbus A320neo on a new Maldives runway which was still under construction have disclosed that the captain was unaware of its existence.

The aircraft (VT-EXL) had been arriving from Trivandrum, with 114 occupants, on 7 September last year.

It had been cleared for the MUGBA 3B approach pattern to Male's Velana airport, with an expectation for an area navigation (RNAV) approach to runway 18.

While a NOTAM advised that a second near-parallel runway was under construction, some 190m to the east, the captain was "not aware" of the NOTAM, nor that there were two runways, says the Maldives Accident Investigation Co-ordinating Committee.

"From the chart that he had, there was only one runway," it says. It points out that, although the captain had flown four or five times to the airport, he had not previously conducted an approach to runway 18.

Although the first officer was aware of the runway construction NOTAM, she "did not share" this information with the captain, the inquiry says.

The crew requested a VOR approach to the runway but, during subsequent vectoring by Male controllers, it was cleared for an RNAV pattern – prompting the crew again to request a VOR approach.

Investigators found that the aircraft was neither cleared to, nor vectored to, any of the approach fixes associated with either of the two VOR procedures for runway 18.

Landing clearance was given before the aircraft reported 7nm final. The first officer declared to air traffic control that the crew had the runway in sight at 4nm.

Markings on the new runway were "brighter and more conspicuous" than those on the actual runway in use, says the inquiry, and its threshold was also closer to the approaching aircraft.

Closed-runway markings on the new strip were "not fully in compliance" with ICAO recommendations, it adds, and its standard markings had not been "obliterated" as required.

The A320neo's touchdown was normal but the aircraft ran over a length of white cloth at about 100kt.

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Tower controllers were "completely distracted" as the aircraft approached, says the inquiry, informing the crew only after touchdown: "You just landed on a wrong runway."

White cloth was found to have jammed in the left-hand main landing-gear, and a tyre on the assembly was badly damaged.

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Accident Investigation Co-ordinating Committee

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