Polar AN26 at Belaya Gora on Oct 11th 2016, touched down off runway
Last Update: August 3, 2017 / 19:35:20 GMT/Zulu time
A passenger reported that they were on approach to Belaya Gora as usual when there was a sudden heavy punch pushing them into their seats and the aircraft skidded to a stop. It was immediately clear they were not at the airport.
No weather information is available, locals reported however that just as the aircraft was on final approach to Belaya Gora a blizzard arrived, the heavy snow fall and fog/snow blown up immediately reduced any visibility to zero.
On Oct 13th 2016 the Transport Prosecution Office of Yakutia, department Republic of Sakha, reported the AN-26-100 of Polar Airlines, route Yakutsk-Belaya Gora, suffered a hard landing left of the extended runway center line and about 300-400 meters before the runway threshold in complex weather conditions. The aircraft sustained damage to the landing gear and the right hand engine. None of the 27 passengers and 6 crew received any significant injuries. The office have opened an investigation and are looking into the operator's compliance with safety legislation.
On Nov 1st 2016 Rosaviatsia (Russia's CAA) reported the aircraft was on approach to Belaya Gora's runway 07 (length 7200 feet/2195 meters) when the aircraft entered an area of strong snowfall, reduced visibility and storm with winds from 350 degrees at 10 knots gusting 20 knots, visibility 1900 meters, cloud ceiling at 330 meters. The aircraft touched down on the ice of the Indigirka River about 390 meters from the runway threshold about 230 meters left of the runway. The aircraft had carried out an NDB approach requiring a minimum visibility of 4000 meters when only 2500 meters visibility was present when the aircraft began the approach. The crew consisted of a training and check captain with 11,439 hours total, 7,633 hours on type and a captain with 11,142 hours total and 765 hours on type.
On Aug 3rd 2017 the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) released their final report in Russian concluding the probable causes of the accident were:
The accident happened in daylight in meteorologic conditions below required minima (240 meters vertical, 4000 meters horizontal view) in snow fall, which resulted the crew in misidentifying the unpaved runway covered with snow and thus landing on the river bank of river Indigirka causing substantial damage to the aicraft.
Most likely the accident happened as result of the combination of following factors:
- Absence of standard operating procedures issued by the operator of how to conduct NDB approaches
- Violation of procedures by tower who only transmitted information about snow fall and recommended to perform a low pass over the runway but did not transmit the actual visibility was 1900 meters below required minimum
- Absence of information that the visibility was below required minimum, the last transmission indicated minimum visibity was present
- presence of numerous landmarks (abandoned ships, ship cranes, fuel transshipment complex, ...) covered by snow within 700-1000m from the unpaved runway which could be taken as runway markers by flight crew
- presence of a number of "bald spots" due to the transitional period of year where the underlying surface became visible making it difficult to visualize and recognize the unpaved runway covered with snow (it was the first flight into Belaya Gora for the crew in the winter season, they had operated into the aerodrome only in summer so far)
- Insufficient use of the available nav aid on final approach which led to lack of proper control of the aircraft position relative to the glide path
- the lack of possibility for tower to watch the aircraft performing the NDB approach from his work place
The MAK reported that the crew was advised of weather conditions below required weather minima before they departed from Yakutsk, the visibility was reported at 1900 meters in moderate snow fall. One of the alternate aerodromes indicated weather conditions suitable for landing. The aircraft carried sufficient fuel to attempt an approach to Belaya Gora and then divert to that airfield.
Enroute the aircraft encountered strong headwind prompting the crew to descend the aircraft to FL150. About half an hour after the descent the aircraft began to descent towards Belaya Gora, performed a left downwind and joined the NDB approach for runway 07. The crew continued below minimum descent altitude, the aircraft touched down 390 meters ahead of the runway threshold and 230 meters to the left of the extended runway center line and skidded over rough terrain for 720 meters before coming to a stop with the nose and right main gear collapsed. One passenger received a serious injury.
The captain (49, ATPL, 11,439 hours total, 2,697 hours on type) was assisted by another captain (51, ATPL, 11,142 hours total, 122 hours on type) and a navigator (45, Navigator's License, 7000 hours total, 4,312 hours on type).
The MAK analysed that a snow storm was moving in, tower observed the cell moving towards the aerodrome with his binoculars while the aircraft was about to turn to the base leg. A new special METAR was created indicating that the visibility reduced to 1900 meters in the snow storm. Although required to forward any such information tower did not transmit the new weather information to the aircraft. Instead tower cleared the flight for the final approach in violation of his procedural requirements.
During the intercept of the final approach course the aircraft overshot the final approach course. The investigation determined that the most likely cause for this overshoot was the use of the Garmin GPS for navigation instead of the onboard navigation systems. The crew subsequently initiated a left turn to correct for the overshoot and return onto the approach course. About 6nm before touchdown tower informed the crew about deteriorating visibility, however, did not mention the actual visibility values or mention that the visibility dropped below minima.
The commission established that the aircraft still had enough fuel to continue the approach, go around from the minimum descent altitude and divert to one of the alternate aerodromes.
While descending towards the runway the crew reported they had established visual contact with the runway, however, likely did not identify the runway. The crew had identified dark spots forming what appeared to be a runway on the ground that they took for the runway and therefore requested clearance to land, which was issued.
After intercepting the final approach course the aircraft following the NDB inbound bearing 071, deviating a maximum of 70 meters, until about 1.5nm before touchdown, when the rate of descent began to increase and the aircraft began to descend below the glidepath, the snow storm arrived at the aerodrome.
Likely, because of the reduced visibility and the descent below glidepath the crew lost sight of the actual runway and instead identified a place at the river bank consisting of dark spots (sand) mistaking some river cranes and other structures covered by snow as runway markers. The aircraft drifted left off the extended runway center line, the navigator recognized they were to the left of the runway center line and called out they were 150 meters left however was not heard as the pilots positively called they were visual with the runway. When the crew realized they were not approaching the runway, it was too late already and the aircraft touched down ahead of the runway threshold and to the left of the runway center line.
The investigation also checked the possibility of a wind shear but could not confirm any wind shear during the final approach.
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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