Condor A320 at Kavala on Jul 11th 2021, could not retract landing gear

Last Update: November 6, 2021 / 19:33:51 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 11, 2021

Classification
Accident

Airline
Condor

Flight number
DE-1763

Aircraft Registration
D-AICP

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator
A320

Airport ICAO Code
LGKV

A Condor Airbus A320-200, registration D-AICP performing flight DE-1763 from Kavala (Greece) to Dusseldorf (Germany) with 74 passengers and 6 crew, departed Kavala's runway 23 when the crew stopped the climb at FL100 due to being unable to retract the landing gear. The aircraft entered a hold to burn off fuel and troubleshoot the issue, then returned to Kavala for a safe landing on runway 23 about 50 minutes after departure.

A passenger reported the crew indicated the landing gear could not be retracted.

A ground observer reported the crew told ATC they could not retract the landing gear.

The Aviation Herald had received information the aircraft was in Kavala since Jul 11th 2021 and has received structural damage, the source however could not tell anything about the circumstandes of how the damage came together.

Another source confirmed the aircraft received substantial damage to its fuselage.

Another source pointed out the aircraft had suffered a rejected takeoff in Heraklion the previous day (at low speed according to Mode-S data), reason unknown, and remained on the ground in Heraklion for 22.5 hours before flying the return flight to Dusseldorf and subsequently performing flight DE-1762 to Kavala. The source however could not establish a causal link to the events, that keep the aircraft on the ground now in Kavala.

A fourth source suggested the aircraft may have landed hard in Kavala on flight DE-1762, however, there are no corroborating reports so far.

On Jul 21st 2021 Germany's BFU reported they have received information about the occurrence and are currently investigating how to rate the occurrence as well as to the sequence of events. Greece's Accident Investigation has asked the BFU to conduct the investigation.

The airline subsequently reported the crew could not retract the nose gear, the aircraft returned safely to Kavala and is currently ground with some damage.

On Aug 2nd 2021 The Aviation Herald learned the aircraft had received structural damage to the nose consistent with overloading the structure at frame 20 (which is slightly aft of the nose gear trunion) and the nose landing gear had completely deflated (which was why the nose landing gear could not be retracted).

On Sep 28th 2021 Germany's BFU reported the occurrence was rated an accident and is being investigated by the BFU. The day before the occurrence flight the aircraft had rejected takeoff during which the nose gear had been exposed to high vertical and side loads. Following landing in Kavala (editorial note: it is not mentioned which landing, the return landing after the gear could not retracted or the first landing into Kavala) the nose gear oleo was found completely deflated, there was substantial structural damage of the fuselage in the area of the nose gear strut. An extended preliminary report in both English and German can be expected by end of October 2021.

The aircraft is still in Kavala almost 4 months (Nov 6th 2021) later.

On Nov 6th 2021 the BFU released their preliminary report reporting the sequence of events during the rejected takeoff on Jul 10th 2021 (providing all times in local time):

At about 1210 hrs, the flight crew received take-off clearance on runway 27. At the time, crosswind from the right side of 12 kt prevailed. The FDR recording and the statement of the co-pilot showed that during the initial about 23 s long phase of the take-off run up to a speed of 126 kt CAS, the co-pilot counteracted the crosswind with left rudder inputs. The rudder was continually returned to neutral position.

At 1210:51 hrs, a rudder input to the right occurred. The airplane changed the heading by about 10° to the right to 281° and a short time later was about 230 m beyond the intersection of runway 27 with runway 30, 3.7 m away from the right edge of runway 27. Shortly before the closest distance to the runway edge, the PIC (40, ATPL, 9,870 hours total, 3,052 hours on type) checked the engine parameters, then the co-pilot (28, CPL, 808 hours total, 718 hours on type) said “Sorry, das Flugzeug zieht nach rechts (the airplane is pulling to the right)”, according to the statement of both pilots.

Subsequently, the PIC aborted the take-off at a speed of 137 kt CAS, 2 kt below the decision speed V1. According to her own statement, she pulled the thrust lever to idle and then to full reverse. The PIC also executed a left rudder input towards the runway centre line and pulled the side stick back. According to her statement, she can no longer remember to operate the side stick. Immediately afterwards, the nose landing gear lifted off. After the PIC realised the lift-off of the nose, she pushed the side stick forward and the nose landing gear touched down again. During ground contact, the airplane was in a yaw movement towards the left in the direction of the runway centre.

After the rejected take-off, the ground spoilers were deployed automatically and the auto brake system activated in level MAX. During the braking action, the airplane moved back towards the runway centre line and came to a stop on the runway ahead of taxiway C.

After the aircraft was stopped, the co-pilot informed the tower of the rejected take-off and requested the fire brigade. Following a short stop at this position and the check of the brake temperatures, among other things, the flight crew decided to leave the runway and taxied back to the assigned parking position 12.

The PIC informed the mechanics of the maintenance organisation subcontracted by the operator, that the take-off had been aborted because the airplane had pulled to the right, according to their statements. The operator was initially informed of the occurrence by the PIC via the Operations Control Center (OCC).

During their work on the airplane, the mechanics were in contact with the maintenance control center of the operator in Germany, from whom they also received their work orders.

First, according to their statements, the mechanics began with a General Visual Inspection (GVI) of the airplane, during which they determined that all four tires of the main landing gear, especially the outer tire of the right main landing gear (tire No. 4), had been damaged and had to be replaced. None of the tires was deflated.

Then they continued their work with the “AMM (Aircraft Maintenance Manual) Inspection 05-51-15 after a Tire Burst or Tread Throw or Wheel Failure”. At the same time, the aerodrome operator performed an inspection of runway 27. Since none of the tires were depressurised and no tire debris had been found after the rejected take-off during the runway inspection, the mechanics applied “AMM Inspection 05-51-16 after Brake Emergency Application or Overheat”.

On the evening of 10 July 2021, the four main landing gear tires were replaced.

Below is the photo of the ground track produced during the rejected takeoff showing the swerve of the aircraft.

The BFU described the FDR data stating the FDR showed:

a backward side stick input of the PIC, 1 s after the take-off was
aborted. The pitch angle increased to 2.8° and the Weight on Wheel (WOW) sensors of the nose landing gear reported the nose landing gear as in the air (position “Air”).

At 0910:54 UTC, a forward side stick input of the PIC, which initially remained constant, was recorded. The negative pitch rate increased at this moment to a maximum of -9.7°/s and the WOW sensors of the nose landing gear reported the nose landing gear on the ground (position “GND”). At the time of the touch-down of the nose landing gear, a maximum yaw rate to the left of -8°/s existed. The yaw movement led the airplane back towards the runway centre line, the roll angle towards the right increased to a maximum of 1.4°. At the time the nose landing gear touched down again, a maximum vertical acceleration of 1.7 g occurred. During the rejected takeoff, lateral acceleration was between -0.36 g and +0.53 g.

Except for the right rudder input at 0910:51 UTC, there is so far no further indication for a sudden movement of the airplane to the right.

The BFU subsequently summarized the sequence of events during the accident flight:

On 11 July 2021, a flight from, Kavala to Düsseldorf was planned with this aircraft. On board were 6 crew members and 74 passengers. It was the third flight of this aircraft on that day. The PIC (48, ATPL, 5,068 hours total, 4,772 hours on type) was PF and the co-pilot (34, CPL, 1,108 hours total, 774 hours on type) PM.

The same flight crew had performed the previous flight from Düsseldorf to Kavala. According to their statements, the co-pilot had made the outside check prior to the flight from Düsseldorf to Kavala as well as the one prior to the planed flight from Kavala to Düsseldorf. According to the crew, the first outside check was delegated by the PIC to the co-pilot in accordance with SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) due to his heavy workload.

After take-off from runway 23 at Kavala at 1942:15 hrs, the pilots were not able to retract the landing gear, according to their statements. The landing gear lever was blocked in position DOWN and the co-pilot could not move it into position UP. Shortly after that, the ECAM message L/G SHOCK ABSORBER FAULT was triggered. At 1942:39 hrs, the PIC switched on the autopilot (AP1) at 930 ft AMSL, which disengaged again automatically 8 s later. The ECAM messages AUTO FLT AP OFF and AUTO FLT A/THR OFF were triggered. Afterwards it was not possible to engage one of the two autopilots or the autothrust system. For the remainder of the flight the airplane was controlled manually. During climb, the co-pilot informed Kavala Tower that they could not retract the landing gear. At 1943:32 hrs, the PIC reduced speed to 220 kt and the flight was continued in runway direction.

Then the ECAM L/G SHOCK ABSORBER FAULT procedure was performed. The pilots determined that all three landing gears were indicated as extended and locked.

This was confirmed by the landing gear indication panel and the image on the ECAM WHEEL page.

At 1950:15 hrs, the pilots levelled off at FL 100. In agreement with the tower controller they flew within the 25 NM radius of VOR KPL above the Minimum Sector Altitude (MSA) along radials of VOR KPL with headings almost parallel to the runway.

VOR KPL was overflown several times. Support with radar vectors was not possible, because there was no radar coverage in that area.

Fuel consumption was increased due to the extended landing gear, which both pilots realised, according to their statements. The remaining flight time was estimated to be about 2 hours. Prior to the decision making process, the purser was informed about the current situation. The pilots applied the FORDEC2 method and came to the decision to land at Kavala again with the technical fault present.

According to their statements, it was not clear to the pilots which landing gear was affected by the ECAM message L/G SHOCK ABSORBER FAULT. The co-pilot assumed a landing gear shock absorber fault at one of the two main landing gears. The pilots discussed a potential connection with the rejected take-off the day before at Heraklion.

The flight crew could not contact the maintenance control centre of the operator via the Aircraft Communication and Reporting System (ACARS). During the occurrence there was no data link and the system showed the status STBY (standby).

The co-pilot informed the tower controller about their decision to land at Kavala again. As precautionary action, the flight crew requested the fire brigade. Since the tower controller asked the flight crew for a Mayday call in order to alert the fire brigade, the co-pilot declared emergency after consulting with the PIC.

The PIC transferred manual control of the airplane to the co-pilot and then informed the cabin crew and the passengers of their decision to return to Kavala. The PIC prepared and briefed the VOR-DME approach to runway 23 of Kavala Airport. After taking back control, he performed the approach.

The pilots stated that because of the Mayday call, Kavala Airport had stopped all VFR flights or rather kept them away from the airplane involved. At the time of the approach, no other approaching or departing IFR traffic was present in the area of Kavala Airport.

At 2035:03 hrs the landing with the main landing gear occurred. The flight crew stated to the BFU that after touch-down of the nose landing gear the further movement of the nose gear into the shock absorber felt unusually hard. The airplane was decelerated with full reverse and auto brake medium. According to the statement of the flight crew, during taxiing lack of damping of the nose landing gear could be felt.

After the airplane had been parked, a deflated nose landing gear shock absorber and structural damage at the front area of the fuselage, especially in the area of Frame 20, was determined. At this time, there was no visible leakage of the nose landing gear shock absorber.

The BFU annotated that the nose landing gear strut is being examined by the manufacturer.

Metars:
LGKV 111820Z 22005KT 9999 FEW030 27/20 Q1010=
LGKV 111750Z 22005KT 9999 FEW030 27/20 Q1010=
LGKV 111720Z 22006KT 9999 FEW030 28/20 Q1010=
LGKV 111650Z 22006KT 9999 FEW030 29/20 Q1010=
LGKV 111620Z 23007KT 9999 FEW030 30/17 Q1010=
LGKV 111550Z 23007KT 9999 FEW030 31/16 Q1010=
LGKV 111520Z 21004KT 9999 FEW030 32/16 Q1010=
LGKV 111450Z 21004KT 9999 FEW030 32/16 Q1010=
LGKV 111420Z 21005KT 9999 FEW030 31/17 Q1010=
LGKV 111350Z 21005KT 9999 FEW030 31/17 Q1010=
LGKV 111320Z 22006KT 9999 FEW030 32/16 Q1010=
LGKV 111250Z 20006KT 9999 FEW030 32/16 Q1010=
LGKV 111220Z 21008KT 9999 FEW025 32/14 Q1010=
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 11, 2021

Classification
Accident

Airline
Condor

Flight number
DE-1763

Aircraft Registration
D-AICP

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator
A320

Airport ICAO Code
LGKV

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