Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cargo flight near catastophe

Article from BBC website 29 April 2008. Summary of the air accident investigation report of a crash landing of Belgian Boeing 737 cargo plane operated by TNT airways (full report here. The plane tried to land at East Midlands airport, damaged its undercarriage and then made an emergency landing at Birmingham. None of the crew were injured.

The report says that at a critical moment in its approach to East Midlands airport, air traffic control passed a message to the pilot from his company instructing a change of destination. This should not have been done at this time, it confused the pilot who inadvertently turned off the autopilots. The plane lost height but, instead of aborting the landing he continued whilst trying to re-engage the autopilots. The plane came down on grass alongside the runway but then became airborne again. By the time of the landing in Birmingham the plane had no right hand landing gear and its flaps were jammed.

Failures identified by the report include
* Weather forecast did not warn of mist or fog that caused an unexpected diversion from Standsted;
* Air traffic control passed on a message at an inappropriate time;
* Captain lost situational awareness when he inadvertently disconnected the autopilots
* Neither the captain or co-pilot called a "go around" even though they knew they had problems during the approach.

The report recommends that TNT Airways review its standard operating procedures. They actually sacked the pilot a month after the accident saying the incident was down to human error.

It seems pretty poor to me that the pilot got sacked. Even the company said he showed skill in handling the situation. Whilst errors were made, there are a number of contributory factors. TNT claim to have a "zero accident tolerance level" but clearly no understanding of human factors.

Andy Brazier

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