Vulkan AN26 at Birmingham on Jul 16th 2020, crew possibly followed not-existing glideslope indication twice

Last Update: May 13, 2021 / 13:10:31 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 16, 2020

Classification
Report

Airline
Vulkan Air

Flight number
VKA-161

Aircraft Registration
UR-CQD

Aircraft Type
Antonov An-26

ICAO Type Designator
AN26

A Vulkan Antonov AN-26, registration UR-CQD performing flight VKA-161 from Ostrava (Czech Republic) to Birmingham,EN (UK) with 3 passengers and 6 crew, was on a LOC/DME approach to Birmingham's runway 33 when the aircraft did not descend according to the approach profile but remained at the initial altitude. When the aircraft was about 600 feet above the profile tower instructed a go around in line with the missed approach procedure. The aircraft positioned for another LOC/DME approach to runway 33 and descended, however descended about 600 feet below profile, tower issued a terrain alert and again instructed a go around. The aircraft subsequently positioned for an ILS approach to runway 15 and landed safely without further incident.

On May 13th 2021 the AAIB released their bulletin stating the only recently promoted commander (44, ATPL, 2,512 hours total, 624 hours on type) was undergoing a line check by a senior manager within the company.

The AAIB stated the aircraft had been cleared for a LOC/DME approach to runway 33 and described the following sequence of events:

The aircraft was cleared to descend to 2,000 ft and when 12 nm from touchdown was established on the localiser with clearance to descend further with the procedure.

At 5.5 nm from touchdown the aircraft was at 2,500 ft, 500 ft above the platform altitude for the approach. The aircraft continued to descend but then maintained an altitude of about 2,000 ft, remaining at this altitude beyond the start of the approach descent point, situated 5.1 nm from touchdown. At 3 nm from touchdown the aircraft was still maintaining 2,000 ft, 660 ft above the correct profile altitude. ATC instructed the pilots they were above the correct descent profile and the aircraft began a descent, but a few seconds later ATC instructed the pilots to go around and to climb straight ahead to 3,000 ft, in accordance with the published missed approach procedure. The aircraft then made a left turn before once again maintaining the runway heading. It was re-cleared to climb to 4,000 ft and given radar vectors for a further LOC/DME approach to Runway 33.

ATC provided further radar vectors to establish the aircraft on the localiser for a 10 nm final approach to Runway 33, reminding the pilots that there was no glideslope available.

The aircraft was cleared to descend with the procedure but started its descent below the 2,000 ft platform altitude when 8 nm from touchdown, 2.9 nm before the correct procedural descent point. At 7 nm the aircraft was descending through 1,600 ft, 400 ft below the correct altitude. ATC passed altitude and range information to the pilots but did not warn the pilots that they were below the correct altitude. The aircraft continued its descent and at 6 nm was at 1,500 ft, 500 ft below the correct altitude. ATC then gave the pilots a terrain warning and instructed them to go around. There was no immediate reply so ATC repeated the instruction with the aircraft now passing 1,400 ft, 600 ft below the correct altitude. The pilots responded that they had the runway in sight and were “approaching the glideslope”.

ATC informed them there was no glideslope and again instructed the aircraft to go around, which the pilots then acknowledged.

ATC offered the crew an ILS approach to Runway 15 which, under the prevailing wind conditions, the pilots were able to accept and the aircraft landed without further event.

The AAIB reported the drainage problems and ground water problems prompted the removal of the glideslope for runway 33 from service. Following additional drainage works the glideslope could be returned to service in September 2020.

The AAIB summarized various statements:

The operator reported that the commander had previously flown non-precision approaches without difficulty. It also commented that earlier in the year the aircraft’s instrument panels had been modified, with some instruments changing position.

In his report the commander commented that he had reduced the descent rate excessively during the first approach, resulting in the aircraft remaining above the correct profile. He further commented that during the second approach the runway had been in sight and that he had intended to reduce the descent rate when ATC instructed the aircraft to go around.

The AAIB analysed:

Based on the profile of the first approach it appears that the pilots had either misinterpreted the approach or had been mistakenly expecting to intercept a glide slope. This was followed by advice from ATC that there was no glide slope available. On the second approach the crew appear to have mis-interpreted the approach profile, commencing their descent too early, or had commenced an early visual approach without notifying ATC. The apparently routine nature of ATC height and distance checks may have given the pilots the impression the aircraft was descending in accordance with the correct profile for landing. The manager carrying out the line check was in a position to intervene had he believed the pilot’s deviation from the correct profile was inappropriate or unsafe, but did not do so.

Non-precision approaches are becoming less common and pilots may be less current in flying them. The commander also cited the new instrument layout and the pressure of undergoing a line check with a senior manager as additional factors affecting his performance.

Early and unequivocal intervention from those able to see the aircraft was not on the correct profile would have been appropriate. The return of the ILS to this runway after a protracted absence may enhance the safety of future approaches.

The AAIB rated the occurrence a serious incident, no conclusions were released with the bulletin.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 16, 2020

Classification
Report

Airline
Vulkan Air

Flight number
VKA-161

Aircraft Registration
UR-CQD

Aircraft Type
Antonov An-26

ICAO Type Designator
AN26

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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