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A320/B734, vicinity London Gatwick UK, 2012

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Summary
On 4 August 2012 an Easyjet Airbus A320 on approach to London Gatwick was given landing clearance in IMC for a runway occupied by a Boeing 737-400 waiting for take off which heard this transmission. Despite normal ground visibility and an unrestricted view of the runway, ATC failed to recognise their error and, after two unsuccessful attempts to advise them of it, the commander of the 737 instructed the A320 to go around which it did. Only upon hearing this did the controller realise what had happened.
Event Details
When August 2012
Actual or Potential
Event Type
HF, RI
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions On Ground - Normal Visibility
Flight Details
Aircraft BOEING 737-400
Operator British Airways
Domicile United Kingdom
Type of Flight Public Transport (Passenger)
Origin London Gatwick Airport
Intended Destination Marseille/Provence
Flight Phase Standing
STD
Flight Details
Aircraft AIRBUS A-320
Operator EasyJet
Domicile United Kingdom
Type of Flight Public Transport (Passenger)
Origin Geneva Cointrin International Airport
Intended Destination London Gatwick Airport
Flight Phase Missed Approach
APR
Location - Airport
Airport vicinity London Gatwick Airport
HF
Tag(s) ATC clearance error
Ineffective Monitoring
Procedural non compliance
RI
Tag(s) ATC error
Incursion pre Take off
Outcome
Damage or injury No
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s) Air Traffic Management
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) None Made
Investigation Type
Type Independent

Description

On 4 August 2012, a Boeing 737-400 being operated by British Airways on a scheduled passenger flight from London Gatwick to Marseilles was lined up for departure on runway 26L when ATC were heard to issue a landing clearance for the same runway to an Airbus A320 being operated by Easyjet on a scheduled passenger flight from Geneva to London Gatwick which was still IMC on final approach. After two unsuccessful attempts to inform ATC of the error, the commander of the 737 instructed the A320 to go around. This was acknowledged and actioned from approximately 400 feet aal by the A320 crew.

Investigation

Based on reports filed with the UK Airprox Board by both pilots, an Investigation into the incident was carried out by the Board. It was established that the Airbus A320 had not come onto the TWR frequency until shortly after the departing B737 had received and acknowledged its line up and wait clearance for runway 26L. The A320 was given landing clearance from its ILS approach just over a minute after checking in on the frequency but their read back was blocked by what was considered to have probably been a call from the 737 First Officer to the effect that they were still on the runway. The landing clearance was then re-iterated by ATC and read back. A second attempt by the 737 First Officer to advise ATC of their position was again blocked and a few seconds later, the 737 commander transmitted to the A320 “go around I say again go around.” The controller stated that he had then heard the A320 crew read back the instruction to go-around. Having become aware that the 737 was still on the runway, he then instructed the A320 to “continue er go around straight ahead er maintain three thousand feet” which was correctly read back. Radar recordings showed that the A320 had initiated the go-around at approximately 1.25nm from touchdown.

The controller error was attributed to the incorrect use of flight progress strips by the controller involved and his failure to make either a visual or Aerodrome Traffic Monitor check of the runway before issuing the A320 with a landing clearance.

The formal statement of Cause was given as: “The TWR controller cleared A320 aircraft to land while the B737 was on the same runway awaiting take-off clearance”

The ICAO AIRPROX Risk Category (the actual risk after any avoiding action) was assessed as ‘C’.

The Final Report of the Investigation was published on 19 December 2012. No Safety Recommendations were made.


Further Reading