Thursday, November 5, 2009

Australian pilots suspended over landing gear miss

AFP - Wednesday, November 4Send IM Story Print

Australian pilots suspended over landing gear miss
SYDNEY (AFP) - – Two Australian pilots have been suspended for preparing to land a passenger plane without the correct landing gear, in what air safety investigators Wednesday labelled a "serious incident".

The Qantas flight from Melbourne was forced to do a second lap above Sydney airport on October 26 after a cockpit alarm went off as the Boeing 767 prepared to touch down, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.

"Passing 700 feet on approach into Sydney, the crew commenced a missed approach due to the aircraft being incorrectly configured for landing," the bureau said.

ATSB air safety spokesman Ian Sangston said the "too low gear" alert sounded because the landing gear had not been lowered, but said it was too early to speculate on the cause.

Qantas said flight safety was never at risk but it had stood the pilots down pending the bureau's inquiry into whether human error was to blame.

"This is an extremely rare event, but one we have taken seriously," the airline said in a statement.

"The flight crew knew all required procedures but there was a brief communication breakdown. They responded quickly to the situation... the cockpit alarm coincided with their actions."

The incident follows the revocation last week of the licences of two US pilots who overshot their destination by some 150 miles (240 kilometres) while distracted.

Sangston said the ATSB was also investigating an incident in which the autopilot briefly disconnected on board a Jetstar flight between Japan and the Gold Coast as it passed through stormy conditions on October 29.

"My understanding is that there was some sort of problem with the information being provided to the pilots," Sangston said.

Qantas' budget offshoot Jetstar said early indications were that the Airbus A330's airspeed sensing system was momentarily impaired, and several parts had been replaced on the aircraft before it was allowed to resume flying.

The error messages were similar to those reported from an Air France Airbus A330 jet which mysteriously plunged into the Atlantic in May, taking the lives of all 228 people on board.

But Sangston said the ATSB was yet to examine the black box data from the craft or interview the crew and it was "only conjecture" to draw parallels.

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