Bumbling in the cockpit almost results in a China Southern airline crash in Wuhan

Posted: 03/8/2013 9:00 am

If you are scared of flying already, you might want to skip this story. It turns out a China Southern Airlines captain put his passengers in danger after a series of missteps narrowly avoided a crash a couple of weeks ago in Wuhan.

The plane ended up striking objects on the ground outside Wuhan Airport, damaging the underbelly and forcing the plane into an emergency landing at Hefei Airport.

The botched landing attempt of the Boeing 737-800, which holds 164 passengers, took place on February 25. Rumours of the incident circulated on Weibo, but have only now been confirmed by China’s aviation regulator.

The results of a preliminary investigation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) revealed the captain of the Guangzhou-Wuhan flight disengaged the auto-pilot at 1,000 feet as the plane was descending. This led to the following sequence of events on-board flight CZ 3367:

- At 430 feet, both pilots were unable to spot the runaway approach lights. The first officer called for a ‘go-around’, meaning another landing attempt, but the instruction was ignored. The night-time landing was also hampered by the weather. The foggy conditions meant visibility was between 1,200 metres and 1,500 metres.

- Upon checking outside, the first officer discovered the plane was low, which triggered a “too-low” alarm in the cockpit.

- The co-pilot once again called for a ‘go-around’, which got no response. It took another “too-low” warning for action to be taken.

- As the plane accelerated upwards, the aircraft struck objects on the ground – scraping antenna beacons – forcing the aircraft to burn excess fuel as it headed to Hefei Airport in neighbouring Anhui province.

- The China Southern Airlines flight landed safely at Hefei Airport some 200 nautical miles away.

Simon Hradecky of the Aviation Herald has more on the damage done:

The CAAC reported that the aircraft sustained damage (penetrations and dents) to the left main gear door and left main gear proximity cover actuator, the left main gear outboard tyre received cuts.

The antennas of the southern NDB (non-directional beacon) ā€œDā€ and inner marker were damaged, two other antenna pillars were damaged as well.

The CAAC annotated that the approach was continued below MDA (minimum decent altitude) without necessary visual reference putting the aircraft below the approach profile, in addition the crew did not initiate the go-around after the first ground proximity alert.

For an airline decorated with the Five-Star Flight Safety Award by the CAAC in 2008, this was an avoidable incident.


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