Investigators have concluded that the VIP carrier involved in a serious Boeing 777-200ER wing-strike incident at Le Bourget was operating with poor safety practices.
French investigation authority BEA has outlined several issues with the Saudi-linked carrier, Mid East Jet, in the aftermath of the 5 June 2016 event.
It describes the company as having no safety-management system, adding that its practices are “not conducive to a culture of safety”.
Three pilots – a flight captain, reserve captain acting as first officer, and a trip captain primarily for administrative tasks – were in the cockpit of the aircraft when it carried out an unstable approach to runway 25, striking the right wing-tip and horizontal stabiliser before climbing away on a late go-around.
“These three pilots [changed] function with each new flight, without there being a hierarchy between them,” says French investigation authority BEA, adding that this would have not encouraged effective crew-resource management.
The pilots involved, it says, were dismissed shortly after the incident.
Mid East Jet did not participate in the inquiry despite being contacted by the Saudi Arabian representative to the investigation.
But investigators were told that the crews “never” trained for the approach to Paris, but rather conducted simulated approaches typically to Washington during training at the Boeing centre in Miami.
“They believe that the simulation sessions are not in line with the operational environment specific to their activity,” says BEA.
BEA adds that the Mid East Jet pilots only operate five or six times per year to Le Bourget and “rarely, if ever” follow the runway 25 LOC A approach which requires a late alignment at low altitude.
The inquiry says the crew had been hoping for an improvement in the weather conditions ahead of carrying out the approach. When this improvement turned out to be slower than expected, the crew considered a diversion either to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Paris Orly or Lyon.
Both Paris airports were experiencing difficulties and the carrier “refused” a diversion to Lyon, says BEA.
BEA adds that the inquiry was told, by the trip captain, that the nature of the company’s operations means the crew is often relayed instructions by radio.
“These interventions do not take into account the operational constraints of the pilots,” says the inquiry. “The calls were almost continuous during the approach and [the trip captain] had to ask the flight engineer [who was present in the cockpit] to stop them.”
None of the three pilots considered the weather to be a problem as they embarked on the Le Bourget approach. They had initially requested an ILS 27 approach but air traffic control authorized the LOC A approach to runway 25.
BEA says the reserve captain and the trip captain were “surprised” by the closeness of the runway as the aircraft emerged from cloud. It adds that the flight captain believed he would be able to continue the approach despite overshooting the line-up turn.
Although the flight captain told the inquiry that he did not hear any of the other crew members call for a go-around, both of the other captains stated that they heard one another call for a go-around when the aircraft crossed the runway centreline.
All four of the cockpit occupants – the three captains and the engineer – were US citizens, with the pilots having previously flown for carriers including American Airlines and Continental Airlines.