How a Singapore A380 caused conflicts after missed approach

The giant aircraft caused quite a commotion while trying to land in Sydney last year

The flight crew of a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 which turned left instead of right while conducting a go-around at Sydney Airport were likely experiencing a high workload, an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found. 

Airbus A380
The Airbus A380 in question was delivered to the flag carrier on April 2, 2012. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The superjumbo, 9V-SKQ (c/n 079), was operating a scheduled service from Singapore to the New South Wales capital on February 9, 2020, when it encountered windshear while descending through approximately 1,000ft on approach to runway 16R. 

In response, the flight crew – which comprised the captain as pilot flying and the first officer as pilot monitoring – initiated a missed approach and advised air traffic control (ATC) that they were going around due to the weather phenomenon. 

The flight tracks of the involved aircraft including the A380, Dash 8 and 737. Source ATSB

ATC then instructed the pilots to turn right onto a heading of 270°. The first officer read back the heading, however, omitted the direction of the turn, and the controller did not correct the incomplete readback. The flight crew then began to turn the aircraft left instead of right. 

This wrong turn then put it in the path of a De Havilland Canada Dash 8 on approach to the parallel runway 16L. The controller subsequently issued a safety alert to the A380 crew advising them of the turboprop – which was about 6nm away – and instructed them to turn right and climb immediately.

Singapore Airlines currently holds a fleet of 19 A380s, all of which are parked due to COVID-19. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

Further complicating matters, ATC then directed the flight crew of the Dash 8 to turn right in order to maintain separation from the stray superjumbo.  

This in turn resulted in a loss of separation between the turboprop and a Boeing 737, which had been on approach behind the A380 to runway 16R. The minimum distance between the Dash 8 and the narrowbody reduced to 2.6nm (4.8 km) laterally and 1,300ft (397m) vertically. 

All the involved aircraft landed safely in Sydney. 

“The ATSB found that the A380 flight crew were likely experiencing a high workload managing a high-energy aircraft state as a result of conducting the windshear recovery and missed approach,” said Kerri Hughes, ATSB acting director transport safety. 

“This, in combination with an expectation that they would be turning left, contributed to the flight crew mishearing the ATC instruction to turn right.” 

In response to the incident, Singapore Airlines issued a notice to the flight crew, highlighting strategies to manage high workload situations, as well as reiterating the importance of correct readbacks and acknowledgement from ATC.