Investigators cite catalogue of errors during Air China twinjet's fatal circling approach to Gimhae airport

A catalogue of errors by the crew resulting from poor training and preparation by the airline caused the fatal crash of an Air China Boeing 767-200 three years ago, according to the official report by South Korean air accident investigators. The aircraft crashed into high ground in fog during a circling approach to Busan's Gimhae airport, South Korea, on 15 April 2002, killing 129 of the 166 people on board.

Despite the difficulty of the circling approach the captain had to fly, especially in poor visibility, the airline had furnished only one set of Jeppesen approach plates to the three-pilot crew, so the co-pilot and second officer could not monitor the captain's actions properly. The captain approached Gimhae from the south using the instrument landing system approach to runway 36L. Because there was a tailwind, he chose to break off from the ILS and position the aircraft for a right-hand base-leg turn to approach the reciprocal runway – 18R – from the north.

Because of the terrain, there is no instrument approach to 18R. The report says the airline had not trained its crews for the Gimhae circling ap­proach to 18R, the captain had not flown it, with training for circling approaches being flown in the simulator and only for Beijing airport. The crew did not know the weather minima for such an approach, lost situational awareness, and the captain had not briefed them for a missed approach.

The second officer, carrying out the radio communication, is criticised for failing to reply correctly to air traffic control (ATC) several times. A controller cleared the aircraft to land, but told the crew their aircraft was not in sight. ATC is faulted for failing to call out crash rescue crews quickly enough, and the South Korean department of transport has been advised to ensure Gimhae radar operators have the circling pattern for 18R and local high ground depicted on their displays so they can monitor circling approaches fully.


Source: Flight International