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Close call at Paris airport

atrib

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[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM01NSZyA7I[/YOUTUBE]

This is the kind of stuff that scares me as a private pilot. It can happen at any airport, but is more likely at bigger airports with multiple runways and multiple towers handling arrivals and departures.

United 57 from Newark was on final approach for Runway 09L (9 LEFT) at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and had been cleared for this approach by Paris Center (or whatever they call it in Europe). CDG was doing departures on 09R and arrivals on 09L that day. The two runways are parallel and are located in close proximity to one another. United 57 was handed off to CDG Tower on final and the Tower controller cleared him to land 09R (the runway handling departures). This was likely a slip of the tongue, as 09R was not clear at the time. A flight had just landed and was yet to clear the active 09R runway markers. And the Tower had instructed a second aircraft (Easyjet 320) to line up and wait on 09R. The United 57 pilots accepted this change and made a turn to line up with 09R as instructed, and continued to fly the approach.

The Easyjet pilot crossed the 09R hold short line and entered 09R as instructed. As part of routine procedure, the pilots checked the extended centerline on the runway to make sure the runway and approach was clear. The Easyjet pilot saw United 57 on final approach less than a mile from the threshold and issued a clear, unambiguous instruction on the radio for United 57 to cancel the approach and go around. United 57 did a go around (they had also seen the Easyjet enter 09R) , and crossed the 09R threshold (the end of the paved runway) just 80 feet above ground level.

Had this been a foggy day, or if the pilots on the ground had not been paying close attention, this could have turned out quite differently. There are electronic runway incursion systems to act as safeguards (and in this case they sounded the alarm too late), but it is always the responsibility of the humans, the controllers and the pilots to make sure that everything is as should be. A simple mistake from the controller could have resulted in a tragedy but it didn't because the humans were paying attention.
 

Swammerdami

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I am not a pilot but still find Mentour Pilot's analyses very interesting; I'd already seen this one yesterday.

Mentour assigned zero blame in this incident, excusing the controller because skills get rusty due to lowered activity during the pandemic. (I'll guess Mentour has a high threshold for assigning blame to any fellow professional.) With 2 pilots and 2 controllers acting promptly, Mentour treats the incident as a success story!

The United flight (piloted by Americans) requested confirmation of the unusual side-step: "Understand cleared to land 09 Right, side step for 9 Right United 57"; they received no response to this, but continued with the side-step approach. Mentour claims that two cultural differences may have played a role. (a) Side-steps are much more common at airports in the U.S. than in Europe. (b) The word "Confirm" would have alerted the European controller better than the American "Understand." (Better yet would have been for United 57 to signal just "Confirm clearance" and force the controller to repeat the instruction.)

"Confirm" apparently is a question word, while "Understand" is mostly just a confirmation that the instruction has been heard. (Mentour doesn't play the actual audio; does intonation matter?) As an ignorant layman, I frequently find these audio signals to be ambiguous: are they questions or not? Why not use a less ambiguous phrase, e.g. "Please confirm"?
 

atrib

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I put the responsibility for this incident on the Tower controller, first for clearing United to land on the wrong runway, and second, for not responding to, and correcting the United pilot's readback of the landing clearance. I think the United pilot did what he was supposed to do - he read back the instructions and even told the Tower that they would be doing a side step to 09R to reflect the change from 09L to 09R. United's readback was not subtle or easily misunderstood, and the Tower should have picked up on the error and corrected it at this point, since United was clearly changing their approach to another runway.

I'm not sure United was asking for confirmation from the Tower. I think they were simply reading back the Tower's instructions. In the US it is not that uncommon for aircraft to get moved to another runway while they are inside the approach markers, and US pilots train for such scenarios. But the way it is done is that the controller will usually ask the pilot if they can accept the change to the new runway, especially if they are already stabilized on the approach. That did not happen here.

The Approach and Tower controllers at big airports are extremely busy, and commercial pilots flying into these airports understand that, and limit their radio talk to the minimum required. Also, United 57 was probably stabilized at the middle marker (or closer) for 09L at the time the Tower issued the landing clearance, and they didn't have a lot of room to change to the new approach. The pilot flying would have been focused on the task of canceling the programmed approach, and hand-flying the aircraft to get established on the new approach.
 

Swammerdami

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If it's OK with atrib, I'd like to piggy-back on this thread to mention  Air Astana Flight 1388, one of the most amazing air-flight incidents I've ever heard of.


The plane was miswired: left aileron cable connected to where the right aileron cable should go; and vice versa. This might not have been too bad — just turn the yoke left to roll right and vice versa — but the yoke also controls the spoilers which were NOT miswired.


Like United 57, it was covered by Mentour Pilot:
[YOUTUBE]5ywaMkMTwWk[/YOUTUBE]
 

atrib

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Great job by the flight crew. Must have been exhausting. Is the CVR recording available online? I did a quick search but couldn't find it.
 

Swammerdami

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I'll offer a renewed plug for Mentour Pilot's videos. All of his videos are interesting but I'll link to his discussion of the 1979 tragedy of AA Flight 191. I am impressed with how thoroughly that accident was studied, and how much detail Mentour Pilot gives. (I have my own intricate techie stories to tell about computers, but I'm afraid they'd bore everyone to tears.)

I linked to AA191 because of a personal anecdote. After that crash, DC-10's were barred from flying in U.S. airspace for several weeks; I was on one of the first flights (SF to NY, IIRC) after the DC-10 was re-certified.

While waiting to board — we could see the aircraft through the windows — some of the passengers mentioned that we were boarding a DC-10. One lady refused to believe it: The airline couldn't be putting her on an unsafe plane. "That's a DC-10, lady." She refused to believe them and boarded anyway. I was seated near her; as the DC-10 was taxiing for take-off she consulted the little brochure, finally realized she was on a DC-10 and buzzed the stewardess that she wanted off! The pilot turned around and went back to the gate, announcing on the intercom that "One of the passengers has decided not to fly with us." Everybody groaned. By the time we got back to the gate, the lady was too embarassed to disembark so we taxiied back and took off with her on-board!

ETA: If it's OK with atrib, I'll test my super-powers and change the thread title to be more inclusive.
 

TV and credit cards

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Interesting that airline maintenance personnel can change the maintenance procedures of the manufacturer. There should be one controlling authority. Airline maintenance crews should submit feedback requesting the change and the manufacturer would put out a revised procedure as necessary.
Excessive maintenance and unnecessary steps in the procedure are a big issue. They invite mistakes and add to cost. I can understand why they would not want to remove so many connectors.
 
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