Irish investigator slams Boeing 737-800 captain for bad crew resource management and flying during Cork airport arrival

Ryanair has become the subject of a second "serious incident" report in the last two months by the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU). The investigations are probing approaches at two Irish airports that were mishandled by the aircraft's flightcrews.

The AAIU describes the most recent incident, which took place during a 4 June 2006 approach to Cork airport, as a "human factors event", and criticises the captain for poor crew resource management (CRM) while observing that the far less experienced co-pilot - who was the pilot not flying - "did endeavour to comply with CRM principles as trained", but "his inputs had little effect".

ryanair ground proximity incident

Ryanair says that the captain of the Boeing 737-800 involved has been demoted for failure to follow company standard operating procedures (SOP).

Having briefed the first officer for an instrument landing system approach to runway 17 at Cork in weather conditions the AAIU describes as "excellent, with only one other item of visual flight rules traffic in the Cork circuit", the captain then instructed him to request a visual approach, which Cork approved.

Late on the approach, the captain recognised he was too high to make a safe landing and asked the co-pilot - who had suggested a go-around - to request a right-hand orbit to lose height.

Cork air traffic control cleared the orbit, but during the manoeuvre the captain allowed the aircraft to drop to 553ft (168m) altitude - only 51ft above the airfield elevation - as the aircraft was passing above the Bishopstown area of Cork city (see diagram).

The lowest radio altimeter reading during the turn was 425ft above ground level, reveals the report, and early in the orbit the 30º maximum bank angle for normal operations was exceeded by nearly 2º. According to the flight data recorder, when the aircraft intercepted the runway extended centreline for its final approach it was following a 1-1.5º glideslope instead of the ILS's 3º.

The co-pilot reported that all four visual precision approach path indicator lights were showing red, and the captain initiated a climb to put the aircraft on to a safer approach path. The aircraft's low height over the town provoked 16 formal protests by residents, the report says.

The AAIU observes that since Ryanair is already acting on recommendations in the recently published report on a mishandled approach at Knock last March , similarities between the two occurrences mean the AAIU's latest report does not contain any additional requirements.

Unstabilised arrivals in the spotlight

In addition to the Cork incident, Ryanair has been - or in one case, is - the subject of three other investigations into unstabilised approaches since July 2005.

It is also one of the airlines involved in an unfinished probe to discover whether landings were made at London Stansted airport, UK in weather conditions that were below minimum.

In addition to the just-released Cork approach incident report, the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has recently reported on a serious approach incident at Knock on 23 March last year, plus another at Skavsta airport, Stockholm on 21 July 2005.

The Italian accident investigation agency ANSV is also in the process of investigating a near-disastrous unstabilised approach at Rome Fiumicino in stormy weather on 7 September 2005. 

Source: Flight International