Virgin A333 at St. Lucia on Dec 24th 2013, mud landing on runway

Last Update: December 15, 2020 / 20:58:21 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Dec 24, 2013

Classification
Accident

Flight number
VS-98

Aircraft Registration
G-VNYC

Aircraft Type
Airbus A330-300

ICAO Type Designator
A333

Airport ICAO Code
TLPL

A Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300, registration G-VNYC performing flight VS-98 from Tobago (Trinidad and Tobago) to Saint Lucia (Saint Lucia), was on final approach to Saint Lucia at about 19:40L (23:40Z) and had just received landing clearance when river "Petite Riviere Du Vieux Fort" burst its banks and flooded the airport reportedly washing the weather station away and setting the runway under mud and water. The aircraft touched down on the flooded runway without warning and managed to come to a stop. No injuries occurred, the aircraft however received substantial damage to landing gear and underside of the fuselage.

The onward flight to London Gatwick,EN (UK) had to be cancelled.

Due to the flooding the airport needed to close for the rest of Dec 24th and Dec 25th but pledged to reopen on Dec 26th. The airport is NOTAMed open on Dec 26th however no jet fuel being available until Dec 27th, locals report the airport is still closed on Dec 26th.

The airport's weather station stopped transmitting Metars after Dec 24th 20:26Z and resumed service on Dec 25th at 22:00Z.

Local Media report 8 fatalities and describe catastrophic devastation all around Saint Lucia as result of the heavy rainfalls (more than 171mm/6.7 inches of rain in 24 hours), flooding and landslides on Holy Eve, emergency supplies had to be brought in from around the Caribbean Island.

Travellers caught at St. Lucia complained about not being able to depart but also tweeted whether reports of the crash of a Virgin Atlantic Aircraft at Saint Lucia as reported by local media were true.

The accident aircraft is still on the ground in St. Lucia.

On Dec 26th regular flight VS-89 from London to St. Lucia and further to St. George's (Grenada) flew directly to Grenada and did not land in St. Lucia.

Some time in the past the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) released their final report concluding the probable causes of the accident were:

The investigation revealed that the original course of the river to the north of the runway had been diverted to allow for runway construction. The evidence indicates that as a result of the extreme weather and heavy rain that existed at the airport that night, the river burst its banks at the point where the original course of the river had been diverted 90 degrees to the west. This resulted in the touchdown area of the runway being flooded.

The controller on duty at the time of the accident was interviewed by the ECCAA investigation team; his memory of events matched the captain's report. The key points being that the weather at the time of landing included rain and gusting winds; clearance to land was given and visibility was better than the required minimum. The controller stated that he was not aware that there was standing water on the runway (the airport was very dark and from the tower, it was not possible see any flooding or debris on the touchdown area of the runway).

The Air Traffic Controller reported that he saw the splash of water when the aircraft touched down. This has been further supported by a ground handling agent who witnessed the landing. The Manager of Air Traffic Control confirmed that the runway is routinely inspected twice a day and that it was last inspected at 21.30 on the 24th December (Flight VS98 landed at 00.15 on the 25th December 2013).

After the aircraft had been positioned on stand # 4, prior to the disembarkation of the passengers, the river began flooding the airport terminal, the ramp and runway area.

This second deluge is believed to have deposited debris such as logs / branches, Unit Load Devices (ULD) and other baggage loading equipment that was observed on the runway and surrounding areas later that evening.

There is no evidence that the aircraft struck any objects. The data shows that the aircraft came within 6 metres of the left hand edge of the runway

After considering all the evidence, including witness statements and the damage to the aircraft, The Authority’s conclusion is that the aircraft landed in approximately one (1) to two (2) feet of water on the touchdown zone of Runway 10. This caused significant damage to the underside of the aircraft, as outlined on page 7 of this report.

(Editorial note: The ECCAA used the map created by the AVH in 2013 (see below) with the label: "The river burst its banks at the point where it makes a 90 degree turn to the west prior to paralleling the runway, thereby flooding the touchdown area of the runway.")

The ECCAA reported there was thunderstorm activity, heavy rainfall, lightning and winds gusting up to 30-40 knots, that resulted in intermittent closures of St. Lucia's Hewanorra Airport. Due to the weather conditions the aircraft entered a hold for about 40 minutes until tower reported the visibility had improved, the airport was now open and cleared the aircraft for the RNAV approach to runway 10. The captain (50, ATPL, 13,000 hours total, 9,800 hours on type) became pilot flying for the approach and landing, the first officer (30, ATPL, 4,783 hours total, 807 hours on type) became pilot monitoring.

About 10 minutes later the aircraft touched down on runway 10, at the touchdown the crew felt the aircraft was juddering, the deceleration was more significant than expected (autobrakes were set to Medium). The aircraft veered to the left, the crew however brought this under control and returned the aircraft onto the center line. Shortly thereafter a number of ECAM cautions came on including a left wing air leak.

The aircraft taxied to the apron (which was free of water at that time), ground personell pointed out substantial damage to the Pack Bay area. The crew had not observed any obstacles however.

The ECCAA wrote: "The nature of the damage to the belly panels in the vicinity of the Pack Bay area indicates that the aircraft had come into contact with a significant amount of water at high speed. There was no evidence that the aircraft was struck by any other object."

With respect to the flight data recorder the ECCAA stated: "Flight data recordings indicated adherence to standard operating procedures and nominal response of the airframe and power plant."

The ECCAA analysed:

The nature of the damage points to the aircraft coming into contact with a significant amount of water at high speed. There is no evidence that the aircraft was struck by any other object.

Metars:
TLPL 242026Z 10018KT 3000 -TSRA FEW007 SCT010CB BKN015 26/24 Q1010
TLPL 241900Z 10019KT 9999 -SHRA BKN020 BKN040 27/24 Q1011 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241800Z 10018KT 9999 -SHRA FEW019TCU SCT023 BKN042 27/24 Q1011 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241800Z 10018KT 9999 -SHRA FEW019TCU SCT023 BKN042 27/24 Q 1011 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241700Z 11016KT 9999 BKN023 29/24 Q1012 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241600Z 12017KT 9999 FEW018CB SCT022 BKN039 29/25 Q1013 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241500Z 12014KT 9999 -SHRA FEW016TCU BKN022 27/25 Q1014 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241500Z 12014KT 9999 -SHRA FEW016TCU BKN022 27/25 Q1014 TE MPO SHRA
TLPL 241400Z 11010KT 9999 -SHRA FEW016TCU SCT022 28/25 Q1014 TEMPO SHRA
TLPL 241400Z 11010KT 9999 -SHRA FEW016TCU SCT022 28/25 Q1014 TE MPO SHRA
TLPL 241300Z 10011KT 9999 FEW010 FEW016TCU SCT039 27/24 Q1014 TEMPO SHRA
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Dec 24, 2013

Classification
Accident

Flight number
VS-98

Aircraft Registration
G-VNYC

Aircraft Type
Airbus A330-300

ICAO Type Designator
A333

Airport ICAO Code
TLPL

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