Investigators probing a Maldives water-landing accident which damaged a Viking Air DHC-6-300 floatplane have disclosed contradictory testimonies from the pilots over the application of power.

The Trans Maldivian Airways turboprop had been approaching Vommuli aerodrome on 16 May last year, following a service from Sun Siyam Iru Veli.

It conducted a right orbit around Vommuli island and the captain advised the first officer, who was flying, to land parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the swells.

Although the pilots considered the approach to be “normal”, says the Accident Investigation Co-ordinating Committee, the aircraft hit a swell on touchdown and bounced.

The captain testified to the inquiry that the first officer was instructed to increase engine power, but “accidentally retarded” the throttle levers instead of advancing them.

But the first officer countered that the throttle levers were moved forward, as instructed, but the lag as the engine spooled up meant the aircraft had insufficient power.

Immediately after the bounce, the aircraft banked left and the left wing struck the water, resulting in substantial damage to the wing-tip.

The captain took control of the aircraft, stabilised it, and the DHC-6 then taxied and docked, enabling passengers to disembark.

None of the eight occupants was injured.

TMA floatplane accident 8Q-TAQ-c-Maldives Accident Investigation Co-ordinating Committee

Source: Maldives Accident Investigation Co-ordinating Committee

As a result of the water contact the aircraft (8Q-TAQ) suffered substantial wing-tip damage

The inquiry points out that surface conditions at Vommuli’s landing areas are characterised by high swell patterns and long swell distances, and that these persist year-round.

High roller waves from the Arabian Sea, it says, move into the atoll “with little or no restriction” from a channel 4km to the northwest and pass through the designated landing areas.

But the captain – a line training instructor – felt the water conditions on the day were good, and allowed the first officer to carry out the landing, even though the first officer had “limited experience” in landing parallel to the waves, the inquiry says.

“It is noted that the [captain’s] and [first officer’s] statements contradict each other regarding power management,” it adds.

No cockpit-voice or flight-data recorder was installed on the aircraft, and neither device was required.