Thursday, April 30, 2009

Report shows human error almost led to aircraft crash

Article from 3 Newsin New Zealand, 30 April 2009

Emirates Airbus A340, which had originated in Auckland, was forced to make an emergency landing at Melbourne Airport after its tail struck the runway while taking off. Flight data shows the plane's wheels were still on the ground 115 metres past the end of the runway and two antennas and a strobe light were hit as the plane struggled into the air.

A preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that somebody in the cockpit entered a takeoff weight 100 tonnes below actual into the performance calculation computer. This meant the aircraft computer applied less thrust than was needed for the plane to take off.

Human error is the most likely cause of the near-miss.

"It should have been picked up during cockpit management checks between one checking the other - it wasn't," he says. "But I would have thought also in the head of one of guys loading it in, they would have thought, 'ah this plane is 100 tonnes too light to be operating from Melbourne to Dubai'."

It is not the first time incorrect loading figures have caused problems. In 2003 a Singapore Airline Boeing 747 had to make an emergency landing at Auckland Airport after the plane's tail also hit the runway on takeoff. Pilot error was also found to be the cause.

Emirates says it has now installed a second computer in the cockpit to double-check the weight's been properly entered.

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