Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pilot texting during landing

CONFUSION reigned among the crew of a Jetstar flight forced into a last-minute aborted landing at Singapore Airport, air safety investigators have found.

Jetstar flight JQ57 was flying from Darwin to Singapore's Changi Airport on May 27, 2010, when a series of distractions forced a go-around landing.

Among them was the sound of text messages being sent to the captain’s phone as the plane came within 2000 feet (609m) from the ground, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report.

The first officer, who was flying the plane at the time, repeatedly attempted to alert the distracted captain that he wanted to pull out of the landing.

However the captain failed to respond to the request for a missed approach altitude of 5000ft.

“The FO (first officer) recalled that, after still not getting a response from the captain, he looked over and, on seeing the captain preoccupied with his mobile phone, set the missed approach altitude himself,” the report stated.

The captain said he was in the process of unlocking and turning off his phone and did not hear the call for a go-around.

According to the report the pilots failed to adequately prepare for the landing in several ways and a lack of communication left them confused by the other's actions.

“The simulator session also identified a period of about two minutes between about 2800ft and 1000ft in the descent where no control manipulations or systems activation was recorded," the report said.

“In contrast, during that period, a number of tasks should have normally been completed in preparation for landing.”

These actions include putting the landing great down (which was still not deployed at under 500ft), selecting the auto brake and changing the configuration of the flaps.

It is likely that the first officer’s performance was “adversely affected by fatigue", while the captain did not appropriately monitor his actions or the aircraft's configuration.

The jet was coming in to land around thunderstorms, but this was not deemed a factor in the incident.

Jetstar has reviewed its procedures since the incident including changes to its training regime.

A Jetstar spokesman said the airline is using the incident as part of its regular training for pilots but that the safety of the aircraft "was never compromised".

“We take a very conservative approach to how far before touchdown an aircraft should be completely configured for landing," Jetstar’s Chief Pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, said.

"In the case of JQ57, pilot distraction meant all the landing checklist items weren’t completed before the aircraft passed an altitude of 500 feet, at which point a go-around was required under our operating procedures.

“Human factors, like distraction, are why airlines have so many procedural safeguards built into how they fly.

"The combination of factors on JQ57 has provided new learnings and the opportunity to add to these safeguards, which we take very seriously.”

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