Russia's federal aviation safety authority is grappling with the problem of overconfidence in the cockpit as it seeks to curtail the risk of accidents during landings in low-visibility conditions.

Rosaviatsia detailed the problem to commercial aviation leaders at a briefing aimed at addressing the risks, following the loss of several aircraft on approach in poor weather.

These have included the destruction of a UTAir Tupolev Tu-134 at Samara in 2007, the crash of a Katekavia Antonov An-24 at Igarka and a Tu-204 at Moscow in 2010, and that of another Tu-134, operated by RusAir, at Petrozavodsk in June last year.

Airport safety inspection chief Sergei Masterov cited below-minimum weather conditions as a factor in 36 of 61 commercial aviation accidents in Russia between 1990 and 2011.

Masterov highlighted several common elements: the remaining fuel was "more than sufficient" for a diversion; aircraft descended below minimum height despite a lack of visual contact with ground reference points; and crews sometimes had inadequate weather data.

But he also pointed out that the captains had "sufficient experience" and that there was strong evidence of "overconfidence and overestimation of capabilities" during low-visibility approaches.

Masterov said that in some cases, the crews could have avoided an accident simply by waiting for the weather to improve, "rather than trying to land at the first attempt".

There had been a liberalisation of rules regarding low-visibility approaches, he added, but there continues to be a problem in finding the criteria that would serve to reduce the risk of collision with the ground.

Rosaviatsia chief Alexander Neradko raised concerns over the frequency of violations of meteorological minima at airports and said that airline managers have "different attitudes" towards performing approaches in these conditions - claiming that some operators encouraged such activity, while others penalised their crews.

Neradko said that prevention of accidents, rather than punishment, needed to be the primary issue.

Source: Flight International