Crash-land pilots ignored warnings

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 16:32 01/11/2012

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Air Nelson says it ‘‘fundamentally disagrees’’ with Transport Accident Investigation Commission findings showing its pilots ignored cockpit warnings that landing gear was unsafe.

TAIC today released its report on the crash landing of a Bombardier Dash-8 Q300 plane in Blenheim on September 30, 2010, which said the two pilots should have abandoned their landing attempt.

However, Air Nelson’s manager of flight operations, Captain Darin Stringer, said it was important to understand the airline’s pilots had followed the protocols that were in place.

“Those protocols are based on information from the manufacturer, Bombardier, that has since been found to be inaccurate,” he said.

The plane, operated by the Air New Zealand subsidiary, had left from Wellington to Nelson with three crew and 43 passengers on board, but had to be diverted to Blenheim because of poor weather conditions.

TAIC found that when the pilots moved the landing gear selector level to down, the left and right main landing gear legs extended normally, while the nose landing gear stopped before it was fully extended, probably because of debris within the hydraulic fluid.

The system signalled the landing gear was "unsafe", and the pilots began working through a checklist to troubleshoot the problem.

The checklist directed them to an independent verification system which showed them three green lights, signalling all the landing gear was working.

TAIC said as a result, the pilots believed everything was okay and there was a fault with one of the sensors.

However, when they continued to approach for landing, a warning horn went off alerting them that it was not safe.

A short time later, the ground proximity warning system also went off - the pilots ‘‘ignored’’ both, TAIC said.

When they hit the ground, the nose gear was pushed into the wheel and the plane completed the landing skidding. No-one was injured.

TAIC said the primary landing gear indication system had shown the nose landing gear was not locked down, but the pilots had been misled by the verification system which was unreliable.

The pilots should have heeded the warnings and abandoned the landing attempt, until the actual position of the nose landing gear had been determined, it said.

Stringer said he would take the TAIC findings seriously and will ‘‘embrace the key lessons,’’ but he fundamentally disagreed with aspects of the report.

The pilots did not ‘‘ignore’’ warning alerts, instead they had followed protocols that showed it was safe to land.

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‘‘At the core of this incident is clear advice from the manufacturer which indicated that three green lights from either the primary or secondary landing gear system was absolute confirmation that the gear was in place and safe,’’ he said.

‘‘However, this was not the case and at Air Nelson we have now stipulated that should a similar situation occur in future a visual inspection must be made by suitably qualified ground observers.’’

TAIC said manufacturer Bombardier has taken a number of safety actions raised in the report, however, one issue had not been resolved.

It has asked the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority director to work with the Canadian authorities to urge Bombardier to improve the reliability of the down-lock verification system.

TAIC said there were key lessons following the incident, including having pilots know more about aircraft's systems and paying attention to aircraft warning systems.

- Stuff

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