West Atlantic ATP swerved off runway after bungled crosswind landing

In strong gusty winds, the crew failed to apply the correct flying technique resulting in a runway excursion

A British Aerospace ATP operated by Swedish freight airline West Atlantic departed the runway at Birmingham Airport last year, after the crew failed to apply the correct crosswind landing technique, a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has found. 

The turboprop, SE-MAO (c/n 2011) – which was flying a cargo service from Guernsey Airport – veered off the paved surface for approximately 450m. There was no reported damage to the aircraft or the airfield and the crew were uninjured. 

The flight 

The crew of Alpha Oscar departed the Channel Islands to fly to Birmingham at 11.42am. The weather at their arrival destination was forecast to be a strong wind from the southwest with good visibility and a high cloud base. 

The co-pilot was the pilot flying for the sector and after being radar vectored for a localiser DME (LLZ DME) approach to runway 33 at Birmingham, the crew conducted a stable approach. 

Rob Hodgkins
Photo Wikimedia Commons/Rob Hodgkins

At 12.45pm during the flare to land, the turboprop drifted to the right of the centreline and a go-around was commenced following the call from the captain. 

At the request of the co-pilot, the flight’s commander became pilot flying for the second approach which was again a stable LLZ DME for the same runway. 

When the aircraft was around 2nm from touchdown, air traffic control announced the wind as 230° at 14kt gusting 27kt. The flight touched down at 12.58pm and shortly afterwards, departed the paved runway to the left. 

After stopping for an inspection by ground operations personnel, the crew taxied the aircraft to a stand under its own power. Subsequent inspections revealed no damage to the aircraft although one main wheel tyre was replaced. 

Flight crew 

Both pilots were relatively new to the ATP. The commander had completed his type rating course in September 2019 and line training the following month. The co-pilot had finished his courses in May and August of the same year, respectively. 

The captain had approximately 211 hours on types at the time of the incident while the co-pilot boasted 250 hours. 

Both pilots completed an EASA type rating at a third-party organisation which was contracted by the operator. At the time there was no requirement to record crosswind landings as a discrete item in the training programme, although they did form a required element of the type rating. 

Although both recall completing one crosswind landing during the simulator phase of their type rating, neither remember receiving any specific training in relevant handling techniques and the wind used was not at or near the aircraft limit. 

d
Photo Flickr Commons/Alec Wilson

After completing the type rating courses, both pilots proceeded to line training with the operator. The syllabus included crosswind landings, but this requirement could be completed as a discussion item rather than as a practical exercise. 

Both pilots were signed off for crosswind landings as a discussion item. On the line, the pair said they had flown some crosswind approaches before this incident, but neither could remember any landing where the crosswind exceeded 20-25kt. 

The operator has no restrictions on the crosswind limit for either newly qualified flight crew members or inexperienced co-pilots. All pilots were restricted only by the flight manual maximum demonstrated limit of 34 kt (not including gusts). 

Analysis 

The AAIB report says neither pilot used the full crosswind technique as outlined in the manufacturer’s or operator’s manuals.  

On the first approach, the co-pilot flared the aircraft and it briefly touched down although an insufficient rudder had been applied to line the aircraft up with the runway.  

As a result of not pointing down the runway, the PF decided to go-around and called “go-around”. The commander either did not hear him or did not hear him correctly and instead called for the co-pilot to land the aircraft. As a result, the co-pilot closed the thrust levers that he had begun to open, and the aircraft again touched down about 20° nose left of the runway direction.  

AAIB
Source AAIB

The co-pilot did not have full right rudder applied and as a result, the aircraft diverged from the centre of the runway in the strong crosswind. The commander called for a go-around which the co-pilot acknowledged. Go-around power was selected, and the manoeuvre was performed as per the SOPs. 

The AAIB were critical of the crew’s decision to reverse the go-around decision saying that doing this “places an aircraft at significant risk” and applying power in the landing roll “invalidates any landing performance calculation, and a breakdown of crew co-ordination can create significant confusion on the flight deck.” 

On the second approach, the aircraft once again flared without being lined up with the runway. As it settled onto its landing gear and friction at the tyres increased, the turboprop began to head in the direction the wheels were pointing, which was to the left edge of the runway. 

landing
Source AAIB

This swing to the left was likely made worse by the weathercock effect of the crosswind, with insufficient right rudder applied at touchdown. 

The commander did not apply into wind aileron (left) as the aircraft swung left, however, he did apply full right rudder to steer the aircraft to the right. As the aircraft headed for the edge of the runway, the left main wheels lifted off the tarmac due to the application of full right aileron causing the aircraft to roll about the axis between the nose and main tyres, and the commander could not stop it leaving the paved surface. 

AAIB
Source AAIB

Concluding, the AAIB said despite the challenging conditions, “the crew did not discuss the conditions in any detail… [and] did not brief who would be holding the control column during either landing roll, or what actions they would take if they were required to abandon the approach or landing.” 

According to the report, the fist approach resulted in confusion between the crew over going around which the AAIB says could have resulted in an incident or accident.  

The second approach resulted in a significant runway excursion due to the use of incorrect crosswind technique and the application of full right aileron. 

“It is likely that the crew’s inexperience of landing in strong crosswinds contributed to the misalignment at touchdown. It is likely this application of right aileron was as a result of an inappropriate motor programme to steer the aircraft right,” the report concludes. 

In response to the incident, West Atlantic is updating its recurrent simulator sessions across all its fleet to include crosswind training. 

A crosswind limit is also expected to be introduced for new co-pilots during their first year of operation of the type.