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Airbus descends to 75 meters above water on approach to Naha airport

28 Comments

A Peach Airlines airbus mistakenly descended to 75 meters above the water on its approach to Naha airport in Okinawa, airline and transport ministry officials said Tuesday.

Flight 252, carrying 59 passengers and crew, had left Ishigaki and was due to land at Naha at around noon on Monday, Fuji TV reported. According to aviation officials, aircraft usually begin their descent into Naha from a point about five kilometers away. However, the Peach Airbus A320-200 began its descent 10 kilometers away and was only 75 meters above the water and still 7 kilometers from the airport before the pilot could regain control.

Nobody on the plane was injured, airline officials said.

A Peach spokesperson told media that the pilot, who is from Argentina, misunderstood air traffic control instructions. Peach said the pilot has been suspended, pending an investigation, Fuji reported.

Aviation officials said planes have a ground proximity warning system that sounds an alarm if an aircraft is too close to the ground, water or a mountain. During the Peach plane's descent, it sounded twice as the captain regained control, Fuji reported.

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28 Comments
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That must have been terrifying for the passengers. Such a close call this could have been a much worse story.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

There are tons of procedures and controls that have to be ignored in order to have a plane do such a stunt.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

I'm glad to be reading about a close call and not another tragedy. Its just been too much to absorb recently.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Peach is facing pinch from related airlines and may not survive for long, my guess.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

That is one insane pilot! Common sense should have been enough for him not to have done that! The co-pilot is just as bad.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Ok, when are they going to release the audio tape. Maybe it wasn't the pilots fault but the controllers. And why didn't the controller warn the pilot. The controller should have seen that the plane was not on the glide path long before.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

low cost carrier requires low cost pilots I guess.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Visibility must have been very poor otherwise the pilot and co-pilot could surely have seen for themselves that they were flying at a dangerously low altitude over the water.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Definitely lots of criticism to go round to many involved in this, thankfully they landed ok! THAT is the most important!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Could be a misunderstanding between pilot and controller or the pilot was unaware of his precarious situation until the warning alarm went off. Whatever, happy landing was the final result.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The headline is not correct. It should have been "Pilot descends Airbus..." to make it clear it was not the plane's automatic system's fault, but a human error.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wow! A lot of arm chair pilots out there! If you paid close attention to detail, there was confusion between ground control and the pilot. Every plane starts it's normal decent at 5 kilometers out at this particular airport. Unfortunately the pilot because of the mistake, started the landing sequence 10 kilometers out vice 5 kilometers out. The decent was a normal descent and the altitude was correct if the sequence was started at the proper time of less then 5 kilometers out. Unfortunately, they started the landing sequence over 5 kilometers early. It is normal to get a warning when even doing a proper landing as it is an indication that you are close proximity to ground, water etc. You can not land without getting close to the ground. And NO there are not plenty of controls or procedures to overcome to start the landing sequence for the trained pilot as this procedure may have to change quickly depending on wind direction, which runway they are instructed to land at, how many planes are in the holding pattern, the plane reaching it's destination early or late, etc. The real problem here was the misunderstanding that caused the pilot to start the sequence way early. Luckily it had a safe ending.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Richard - I, for one, am a real life pilot. I have the PPL and SPL for small planes-aerobatics and sailplanes. Besides, I did hundred of hours in flight simulators (such as the one from Microsoft), which are priceless into teaching anyone willing to learn the proper procedures for landing a big airliner.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This cannot happen if the flight crew are following procedures and doing the checklists. These guys were flying by the seat of their pants. They should be pulled from duty and put through a retraining program. I suspect language difficulties. If they don't pass then clip their wings. By the way Naha is an easy approach and landing.

I wonder what the radar approach operators were doing on the ground. They should have spotted the plane below glide slope and told them. Maybe they were so far out that they didn't intercept the beam.

I hope the air crew was detained and investigated before being sent home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Peach airlines is one of the "discount" airlines and I for one hope that those discounts they pass on to their customers does not mean that they are hiring pilots that are not properly qualified.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Maybe they were so far out that they didn't intercept the beam.

So let's see - first they ignored the Naha approach and landing chart, then they ignored the GPS, then they ignored the ILS (they were not very far, ILS should be indicating that they are way too low, and if it's not indicating, that would be another HUGE warning sign), they did not get the marker beacons, ignored the DME (that was probably indicating the correct distance to the runway), then they had two kinds of altimeters, then they had the METAR (probably telling them that from 70m altitude they should be able to see the landing lights). The controllers should have easily noticed that the plane was going to take a bath as well. Listening to the blackbox recordings of them going through their landing check list and ignoring all these cute little things there should be a lot of fun :| .

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hay, everybody is OVER REACTING, he was just trying to impress a Chic in the cockpit, so that when they got on the ground, she would go out with him. Nothing to get excited about here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jeppesen approach plate for RWY18 YVETT arrival ss: "Cross TAUMU at or above FL150, cross RABIT at or above 10,000FT and cross YVETT at or above 3000FT."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Personally, if i have a chance to take an airplane, I'll never take LCC. Simply, the lowered cost leads to lower salary of crew members and engineers, and therefore lower service and maintenance, In addition, how the atmosphere of such aviation companies will be, of course, can be imagined very easily, I never hope the worst scenario will occur in the aviation industry.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is scary, but I don't know why people suddenly take this as a chance to rail on LLCs. It's not like they are dropping out of the sky or having any more accidents than major carriers like ANA slamming down on the tarmac. As for pilots, I met a flight crew once from Thai Airways in Kyoto...the co-pilot had done his very first flight training less than 3 years prior. So inexperienced pilots and co-pilots aren't just behind the sticks in LLCs. It's a problem in many places that need pilots to meet a rapidly expanding air industry and no local pool of pilots to draw from. Having said that, until the details and flight recordings are available, it's tough to draw conclusions here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the controller issued an erroneous command, he should be blamed for that. But the pilot in command is the ultimate authority as to the operation of his aircraft. Every licensed pilot (myself included) has it hammered into his/her head that you never, ever, EVER fly below the published minimum altitude on an enroute chart or approach plate. And you NEVER fly below the ILS glide path. NEVER. This is on the pilot.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

$A Peach spokesperson told media that the pilot, who is from Argentina, misunderstood air traffic control instructions. Peach said the pilot has been suspended, pending an investigation, Fuji reported.

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air traffic control instructions

@JohnBecker: Are they written in Japanese, English and Spanish?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Wonders if the ILS was inop for the approach? I read about GPS but do not like that for landing. The ILS (instrument landing system) and DME (distance measuring equipment) should of told the pilot when to descend. Something id just wrong and it is hard to believe any pilot would be so "jacked up".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You get what you paid for....

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As someone that "occasionally" flies to Naha I can say this guy made a mistake. Being that he flies for Peach this was probably not his first time to ROAH. He should be familiar with the approach, and if he was anywhere near competent he would have reviewed the approach on his before starting descent. He would therefore know where he should begin his final approach. If I hear something from ATC that sounds like they are instructing me to begin my descent earlier than expected I am going to respond with a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. ATC is just as capable of making a mistake. Also, especially here in Asia, there are sometimes problems understanding the controllers English. That why we read back instructions.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Many years ago I used to teach English in the control tower of the local airport. They told me some funny stories, well, scary stories actually, of some of the mix-ups caused by language misunderstandings, especially those stemming from the different nuances of US and British English.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, I see this as a happy story! I have been on bumpy rides in places I would rather forget. There are many miscalculations made during any flight. This one just happened to be more noticeable. On a scale of one to ten this is a big "zero"! The air traffic controllers were on the ball!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is not enough information in this article to determine what sort of approach was flown nor the mode the aircraft descended in. We also not provided with the technical status of the aircraft or that of the airport. Not until this information is known is a detailed answer worth posting. But that aside, it is not the job to air traffic controllers to control the path of an aircraft and if a ridiculous instruction was given, it should have been question, if not ignored. I also question if the "pilots" who have replied are really pilots because of some of the poor assumptions made. Unfortunately, I don't believe there will be a proper, thorough investigation into this - it is not the Asian way. They pilots (yes, there should have been two) will be blames and then demoted/sacked - Job done. Someone blamed and someone punished. That will stop re-occurrence... Until the next time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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