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Low on fuel, Jet pilot made blind landing on 7th attempt

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A Jet Airways aircraft made a “blind“ landing in Kerala in August last year in an unprecedented seventh attempt after running dangerously low on fuel due to six previous failed landing attempts on account of bad weather in two cities. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had conduced an inquiry into this case of August 17, 2015, and the report has brought out some chilling facts. The Boeing 737 on its way from Doha to Kochi had six failed landing attempts -a first ever in aviation… (epaperbeta.timesofindia.com) Mehr...

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bbabis
bbabis 5
This captain was very good but the question is; what led him to have to use his superior skills? I am totally unfamiliar with the airports involved but the weather didn't look W0X0F. Landing with 600# of fuel shows that there was no time for another full approach and the captain, familiar with terrain and obstructions, probably executed a timed 90/270 return to final for the landing. With the emergency declared, any available rescue equipment was ready at the airport. You take the approach to the ground under control. If you crash, at least the equipment is there and ready. That would be much better than executing another missed and going off to crash somewhere in the hills.
allench1
allench1 1
very good point Bill, no one had taken the chain of action that far, which gives standing to the captains experience and expertise which would further the point that he did not put his airplane or himself into this situation but was more than likely done by other parameters.
ArthurNetteler
That was part of my comment as well. First Officer Janet and I used to do Hood Approaches to BTR on perfect weather days. Just to see how it would turn out. And think about what they said. He did the last one so low that alarms were going off the whole time. my guess is he was using his MINDS EYE to visualize that pattern.
oirudleahcim
Michael Durio 1
Not to hijack the thread, but I hail from an hour west of Baton Rouge and have had a few flights in and out of there over the years. (I usually use LFT; closer to home and easier.) Only one flight to BTR had what I'd call a terrifying final approach: practically dive bombing for the last 15 minutes to the point that loose items slid down the aisle and I was straining at my seat belt. That was a Delta flight in from Atlanta. No explanation was given. Weather was fine. What's so bad about BTR?
alubarsky
Obviously, this is a tremendous pilot but a lousy planner. A temporary demotion is correct. He failed to have a proper alternate airport within his fuel range. If you don't have one at take off, you don't take off. The alternate has to have a guaranteed near visual conditions. The required minimum weather for an alternate used to be 2000 ft ceiling, 2 mile visibility for two hours after ETA.I don't know what the requirements are today but the principle should be the same. On a miss and going to an alternate, a pilot can switch to another alternate that maybe closer if the weather is instrument doable.
carlsonj
James Carlson 2
In addition, most commercial operators, at least in the US, are prohibited from even attempting the approach if the reported weather is below minimums ... how do you do three missed attempts at the same airport and then another three misses at another airport without violating at least that basic safety rule? How do you do more than one approach if the first one was done correctly to minimums, the weather hasn't changed, and you still had to go missed? How many fatal accident reports have exactly that sequence of events in them?

There isn't a lot of detailed information here, but what information is available doesn't look good. I'm glad they all lived and that the plane itself is in a reusable condition, but that doesn't negate:

- planning suitable alternates
- updating information while en-route
- re-planning if necessary
- using good judgement to determine when to try again

This looks like a failure on many counts. They were extraordinarily lucky.
zup737
Joel Zupon 2
Tremendous pilot ?? Really ? How so ? He was practicing his go arounds ?
JBauer1
Jon Bauer 3
I was an USAF IP in a chase aircraft checking out a very inexperienced upgrading pilot in a single engine/single seat fighter. Weather was "Clear and a million". Local area flight briefed for basic handling qualities, two low approaches and a full stop for a first flight/first solo.

Student was unsuccessful getting the a/c into a stabilized approach on his first 12 tries! After each go around we discussed/debriefed on a discrete FM frequency. On try 6 or 7 I started coaching him on FM radio with power settings, HUD picture, sight picture etc. all the way around the pattern. He was getting closer, but would not have landed with all wheels on the concrete.

Finally talked him to touchdown and rollout on lucky #13. I was minimum fuel by then and fortunately he did not close the only runway. A tight closed pattern got me down safely with enough fuel not to worry the boss, who was by this time in the Mobile Control trailer.

Thirteen tries for a successful VFR landing held the record for as long as I knew.

It looks like the Jet Airways crew had Plan A and maybe Plan B, but they really needed a Plan C before takeoff or at least after the second missed approach. ATC can be a real lifesaver in bad weather conditions.

Einstein's "Insanity" quote comes to mind.
RCliff
Richard Cliff 1
Hi John. Hope things are going well. Do you happen to have a digital copy of the 69-07 yearbook ? Handy item. Please drop me a note when convenient. Regards. Rick Cliff info@clrwtrhs.com
RCliff
Richard Cliff 1
Oops. Apologies for misspelling your name.
baqwas
Matha Goram 3
Brought back memories of a DC-3 (enroute from a Jalpaiguri gravel strip to CCU/VECC) searching for another DC-3 from the same company (Jalpaiguri Airlines) that went missing the previous day. Low level loops around the NW Bangladesh corner (commonly used to cut fuel consumption) led to lack WX awareness and we were soon nice tied up in a thunderstorm for harrowing minutes. Of course, my father who met us on the tarmac had an unbelievable relief on his face. (He knew both sets of pilots very well). Years later I understood why the DC-3 was such stable aircraft.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 3
Kochi (Cochin) to Bengaluru (Bangalore airport) is 227 miles, and to Thiruvanthapuram (Trivendram) is 112 miles.
On hind sight, what should have been professionally prudent decision ? Remember it is/was monsoon season in that part of India, like it was in Kochi (Cochin) during the fateful time.
Did any one try to check about Bangalore landing ?
Let us bear in mind about legal axiom
A legal goal achieved illegally is unlawful as much as illegal act done legally !
So the the landing was done illegally , hence punishable. What ever be the consideration.
If it were to go unpunished , it would be a very wrong precedent .
Eulogizing such an act will encourage adventurism among next breed of pilots.
IMHO
joelwiley
joel wiley 2
AVHerald info at the time
http://avherald.com/h?article=48b217ed&opt=1
Donaldtwa
Don Twa 2
even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and agin..
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
This is a report of a case that occurred in Aug. 2015.
Result / reward for the brave P/I -
The captain of this flight was later demoted as co-pilot due to this incident.
Was it fair ?
allench1
allench1 1
Depends, were their other airports with improved conditions that were in range after two missed approaches? Either this pilot had fantastic aviation skills and knew this airfield or he only had this one option. whether or not this was his doing depends again on was there enough information, fuel load wrong etc.
Highflyer1950
Highflyer1950 2
I agree, weather is a big one. VOTV is only 120 miles away and Bangalore is around 220 but further inland. Monsoon or fog. I don't remember if VOTV had a decent ILS like Bangalore but given the poor visabilities and fuel status probably a fly it on the runway located near the beach may have been the best choice.
allench1
allench1 2
tks for the info. Cant help thinking about Wayne aka preacher1.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
ThanX dear friend Highflyer1950 .
The report seems to be final.
In such situations what is the statutory rule / duty of the tower/s of the two airports in reference?
The penalised P / I had made 6 failed attempts at these two airports. In the process running out of fuel !
Any views in this context ?
Scjemail44
Sam Johnson 5
I was taught 2 missed approaches max. Most pilots will land on the third try and most likely crash and end up dead. I give the pilots credit for not pushing it too far on their third tries. I actually practiced 0/0 landings on an instrument proficiency check. I was flying into the San Francisco Bay area and they can get fog quite quickly at times. I did it as a precautionary measure. I was able to do it successfully. We don't not know all of the info pertaining to this incident but my hat is off to the captain. He saved everyone on the flight. The company should reconsider the demotion.
joelwiley
joel wiley 2
It sounds like there is more to the story. Does the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) publish their reports similar to the US NTSB & FAA? Would the be available in English?
JimG4170L
Jim Goldfuss 3
I really feel like there is something missing as well.

The article leads me to believe the pilot could not see anything, not the ground, let alone a runway, performed a missed approach, but immediately started turning at low altitude and somehow located the runway while turning. If he can't see the ground at all, that is absolutely impossible.Now, if he were very familiar with the area, and landmarks, perhaps (though you still have to be concerned with obstacles such as towers, hills, etc...)

What I find more plausible, though I see no indication of this, is that he did a missed approach, immediately turned downwind, and did some pretty quick calculations, turned back inbound on short final, reintercepted the localizer and glide slope, and just flew the needles down to the ground. Again, I see nothing that implies this, and also infers a truly sharp pilot, which leads to my next point...

If this was a truly sharp pilot, he would not have wound up in that situation. Especially running low on fuel, 3rd attempts are not a good omen, and frequently do not end up well. Now India may not have the weather stations we are used to in the US, but I would need to know the decision making process that went on in the flightdeck before I assume the pilot was either tremendously skilled, or had to use those tremendous skills because of inept planning in-flight.

Again, too much information to speculate, but his demotion would seem there may have been more in his file than just this, otherwise, just suspend or put on administrative duties for the duration of the investigation.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
ThanX dear friends Sam Johnson and joel wiley for the tip.
I'll try and find out if the report is available and share it with all here.
Regards
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
Have been searching frantically but regretfully our DGCA is not half as transparent as or as quick as NTSB .
The report is not put on web so far .
From another reporting following obervation was noticed
http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/travel-troubles/85697425/pilots-of-jet-airways-flight-with-150-people-made-a-blind-landing
" ... Pilots made a "blind landing" in India, risking the lives of 150 passengers and crew, as bad weather prevented them from seeing the runway, an investigation found.
The dangerous landing at Thiruvananthapuram could have had disastrous consequences, says the final investigation report into the incident on August 17, 2015.
The Jet Airways pilots could have diverted the flight to a safe airport, instead of attempting to land in bad weather, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. ... "
The news report continues to quote the fuel levels after each go around AND the fuel requirement for an alternative near by airport, namely Bangalore.
thus inspite of all that the "brave" pilot was penalised .
Why ? `
Where am I wrong to find fault with DGCA findings ?
Regards
joelwiley
joel wiley 5
<Wild conjecture alert>
From your link:
When the Jet flight reached Cochin airspace it had 4844kg of fuel. It made three attempts to land in Cochin, but could not make visual contact with the runway and the fuel went down to 4699kg, 3919kg and 2644kg in each attempt.
The minimum diversion fuel for Bengaluru, the designated alternative airport, was 3306 kg. That forced the crew to head to nearby Thiruvananthapuram

3919kg after 2nd missed approach with 3306 needed to reach designated alt: Monday morning quarterbacking says that was the time to divert rather than '3rd times a charm'. Pilot's judgement call that came up short in this instance?

I have seen comments on the minimization of diversion fuel for cost savings by airlines in US. I wonder how much diversion fuel an American company beancounter would have recommended, and if that would have resulted in a less than optimal dead stick landing in the fog.
</wild speculation alert>
mikeosmers
Michael Osmers 3
Regarding landing fuel and bean counters, a comment below applies, the PIC makes the final decisions. I fly 757's and 767's domestically and internationally. The name of the game is land SOMEWHERE with not less than :45 minutes of fuel (per FAR). We normally plan to a minimum of 1:00 domestic and 1:15 international at the planned then add to that for contingencies. It is imprudent to ever paint yourself into a corner with fuel. In the case of a questionable weather situation at destination, one monitors the wx at the destination and alternates long before arrival and any nasty surprises always have an out that may be executed at any implication by the demotion of the captain is that these precautions were not followed. I wonder why after the first missed approach a diversion wasn't made to a landable alternate which Kerala obviously was not. Joel (above) stated Bengaluru was the alternate. Assuming that is true and the weather was landable which it certainly should have been with a legal alternate, the moment this flight went below :45 minutes plus alternate plus fuel for the approach, was when they unnecessary endangered the flight and the PIC earned a demotion, one could argue a demotion was a charity and he should have been fired.
Having said all that you must also understand this was not a US certified crew and operation (which is what's I am familiar with and commenting on 'as if') and the laws of the country of the airline and airport are actually in force and may differ from FAR.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
ThanX my friend joel wiley , for upgraing my knowledge. Ofcourse others are also helping.
Clearly after failed second attempt the PI should have checked for a safer mooring ground , may be Bangalore.
Regards
ArthurNetteler
Walking away is NOT coming up short. Bet they both were more Comfortable with HITTING this Runway. Last go around would have been "Minds Eye" and a couple land marks that they managed to spot. That accounts for the WAY BELOW Altitude on the 4th try!
ArthurNetteler
Arthur Netteler -2
Shows how P.C. the World is becoming. No one remembers that walking away is the PRIMARY JOB! I am GLAD that I Retired, it is NOT the same PROFESSION any more. Controlled by People that more than not have never BEEN in a REAL LIFE/DEATH Decision! Just think what happens if someday a bad guy figures out how to infest Flight Computers. NOW WHAT WILL THEY DO? 90% are just Computer Monitors, not Pilots today.
ArthurNetteler
Amazing how the "System" works today. A Hero Flight Crew are DEMOTED for doing the IMPOSSIBLE! It appears that had they Crashed they would have been sighted for Pilot Error, among others. But being able to pull it off, rater than try another 3rd Alternate. What if that Airport got socked in also and they were NOT FAMILIAR with it. I believe that this Crew and PIC especially had more Experience and Comfort of his ABILITY to hit this Runway Blind. Just as I think I would have been able to hit BTR (Baton Rouge Mem., LA), after making SO MANY MINIMUMS and LESS for all those years. And my guess is like in BTR, the REALLY crappy Weather mostly came from rain and FOG. Which means that winds would not have been an issue. Muscle Memory and Repetition (14 years in the same DC915 Aircraft) I think I could have pulled off a Blind Landing there. Had a 77yo fiend that drove the same highway for 60 years. He could drive from his house to the first stop sign in our town (about 4 miles), looking only at the speedometer in his PU, wearing a Pilot's Hood. I probably will get chastised for this comment... lol.
ArthurNetteler
I would buy this whole Flight Crew DINNER! In back they must have been scared to death, but managed to keep the Passengers CLAM and HOPEFUL!
baqwas
Matha Goram 2
I suspect that the demotion has to do with the third attempt.
cpergiel
Chuck Pergiel 1
Kerala's rainfall averages 2,923 mm (115 in) annually. August averages 16 inches of rain. I suspect the entire southern coast was being inundated with rain.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
Right U R my friend Chuck Pergiel ,
IMHO in place of trying again and again in THAT region, effort must have made for Bangalore landing as soon as possible, say after second failed attempt !
Never sat in a cockpit ! Just been a student of engineering and management.
Regards
zup737
Joel Zupon 1
This pic should be fired but good experienced pilots are getting harder to come by. Some Airlines think they can hire anyone to fly an airplane. One instructor once told me, flying is a journey and you learn by your experiences "flying". Getting all of your experience in a simulator is not what he was talking about. I don't know what this PIC was doing or what his experience was but it doesn't sound like he had much. I am afraid for the future of flying. The next accident will be blamed on a technical problem(jargon for no one knows what the cause is), and probably would be poor experience.
lbflight
Burke Files 1
Was the DGCA also in charge of air traffic control who may have limited the pilot's choices! If so what else is one to do? One cannot find fault with ones self in any bureaucracy.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 3
Dear friend Burke Files , Airports in India are run and controlled by an agency called Airport Authority of India (AAI) which was constituted by an Act of Parliament and came into being on 1st April 1995 by merging erstwhile National Airports Authority and International Airports Authority of India. The merger brought into existence a single Organization entrusted with the responsibility of creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure both on the ground and air space in the country.
AAI manages 125 airports, which include 18 International Airport, 07 Customs Airports, 78 Domestic Airports and 26 Civil Enclaves at Defense airfields. AAI provides air navigation services over 2.8 million square nautical miles of air space.
MORE info can be accessed through the link below
http://www.aai.aero/public_notices/aaisite_test/orign.jsp
Regards
lbflight
Burke Files 2
Thank you. Please excuse my paranoia on bureaucrats and self reporting. ;-)
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
Don't sweat my friend Burke Files .
We all have it , in some form or the other .
For one reason or the other .
Whether here, there or any where .. ha .. ha
tbpera
Tom Pera 2
controller not in charge of airplane....pilot makes decisions... controller just there to keep 'em separated... up at Lake Tahoe young guy tied to land a Beech 18 tail dragger during blustery turbulent day... snow berms on both sides of runway... tried 3 times...porpoised and went around.... on 4th try he finally crashed it (all survived) as controllers all we could do was advise of turbulence, warn of shifting winds and downdrafts and "clear to land" since there weren't any other idiots trying to fly in that weather
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
ThanX my friend Tom Pera for giving me the feed of what the controller could have done.
S/he could have warned about the bad weather prevailing at the nearest airport which was tried with 3 failed attempts.
With pre-warning these 3 failed attempts could have been avoided.
Next the pilot could have been given details of other nearby airport/s with 'amiable' landing conditions!
Was all this at all possible ? Was it normal to expect this of control tower ?
I wonder !
Regards
tbpera
Tom Pera 1
one of the biggest challenges as a controller was the pilot who wouldn't speak out when in trouble... never knew a controller that wouldn't drop everything to help...if asked... pilot in charge of airplane..our job was to keep them separated and flowing smoothly
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
ThanX my friend Tom Pera , I fully understand and agree with U , 110% !
Be it in aviation or any where else, a perfect coordination and, most important, complete communication are a must for desired results .
Seemingly those were absent here and the responsibility lay squarely on the P/I to disclose facts and ask for suitable info / help .
I wonder if I've understood correctly.
Regards
Mberto1938
Should be fired!
ZX1100F1
David Aaron 4
Absolutely correct. 3 missed before diverting to another field 100 miles away and on the same coastline with equally bad conditions, they should have looked at weather in Madurai or Coimbatore.
Poor airmanship to allow the aircraft to get into that predicament, after the first missed evaluate conditions, if no improvement in the immediate forecast save fuel and press on to another field with better conditions, if you arrive at another with equally bad weather you made a bad choice, fly the missed and make a better decision.
k1mgy
Mark Richards 0
Although the captain was "demoted", he was alive, along with other passengers and crew. Another Sully, seems to me. A look at flight planning would be good, but a final analysis is simple: they made it.
gerardogodoy
gerardo godoy 0
Agree with you Arthur. Just look at regular people totally managed by their Cellular, they can't even walk straight without it...humanity is in for a Jolt soon!!!!

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