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Contribution of Unstabilised Approaches to Aircraft Accidents and Incidents

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Article Information
Category: Toolkit for ATC - Stabilised Approach Stabilised Approach Awareness Toolkit for ATC
Content source: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

Description

The Flight Safety Foundation established that unstabilised approaches were a causal factor in 66 % of 76 approach and landing accidents and incidents worldwide between 1984 and 1997.

It was found that many low and slow (low energy) approaches have resulted in controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) because of inadequate vertical position awareness. Low energy approaches may also result in "loss-of-control" or "land-short" events.

High energy approaches have resulted in runway excursions and also have contributed to inadequate situational awareness in some of CFIT accidents.

It was found that a crew’s inability to control the aircraft to the desired flight parameters (airspeed, altitude, rate of descent) was a major factor in 45 % of 76 approach-and-landing accidents and serious incidents.

Flight-handling difficulties have occurred in situations which included rushing approaches, attempts to comply with demanding ATC clearances, adverse weather conditions and improper use of automation.

Consequences

Unstabilised approaches can be followed by:

  1. Runway excursions
  2. Landing short
  3. Controlled flight into terrain
  4. Hard landings
  5. Tail Strike

Contributory factors

Weather conditions or approach types which can increase the chances of an unstabilised approach are:

  1. wake turbulence
  2. strong winds
  3. low visibility
  4. heavy precipitation
  5. an approach with no visual references (e.g. night or IMC)
  6. visual approach
  7. circling approach

Aircraft Accidents and Incidents Related to Unstabilised Approach Listed on SKYbrary

  • B737, New York La Guardia USA, 2013 (On 22 July 2013 the Captain of a Boeing 737 failed to go around when the aircraft was not stabilised on final approach at La Guardia and then took control from the First Officer three seconds before touchdown and made a very hard nose first touchdown which substantially damaged the aircraft. The Investigation concluded that the accident had been a consequence of the continued approach and the attempt to recover with a very late transfer of control instead of a go around as prescribed by the Operator. The aircraft was "substantially damaged".)
  • B737, Fort Nelson BC Canada, 2012 (On 9 January 2012, an Enerjet Boeing 737-700 overran the landing runway 03 at Fort Nelson by approximately 70 metres after the newly promoted Captain continued an unstabilised approach to a mis-managed late-touchdown landing. The subsequent Investigation attributed the accident to poor crew performance in the presence of a fatigued aircraft commander.)
  • F50, vicinity Luxembourg, 2002 (On 6 November 2002, a Fokker 50 operated by Luxair, crashed on approach to Luxembourg Airport following loss of control attributed to intentional operation of power levers in the ground range, contrary to SOPs.)
  • E135, George South Africa, 2009 (On 7 December 2009, an South African Airlink Embraer 135 overran the recently refurbished wet landing runway at George after braking was ineffective and exited the aerodrome perimeter to end up on a public road. There was no fire and all occupants were able to evacuate the aircraft. The subsequent investigation attributed the overrun principally to inadequate wet runway friction following the surface maintenance activities and noted various significant non-compliances with ICAO Annex 14.)
  • B735, vicinity Kazan Russia, 2013 (On 17 November 2013, the crew of a Boeing 737-500 failed to establish on the ILS at Kazan after not following the promulgated intermediate approach track due to late awareness of LNAV map shift. A go around was eventually initiated from the unstabilised approach but the crew appeared not to recognise that the autopilot used to fly the approach would automatically disconnect. Non-control followed by inappropriate control led to a high speed descent into terrain less than a minute after go around commencement. The Investigation found that the pilots had not received appropriate training for all-engine go arounds or upset recovery.)
  • … further results


Stabilised Approach Awareness Toolkit for ATC

Further Reading

CANSO

Part of the Stabilised Approach Awareness Toolkit for ATC