air safety

Jan 17, 2014

Air-India 787 warned off wrong Melbourne airport landing

An Air-India Dreamliner 787 was at low altitude  on Tuesday morning and about to touchdown at the wrong Melbourne Airport, Essendon rather than nearby Melbourne International, when

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Air-India 787-8 successfully on the ground on correct runway at SYD: Photo James Morgan

An Air-India Dreamliner 787 was at low altitude  on Tuesday morning and about to touchdown at the wrong Melbourne Airport, Essendon rather than nearby Melbourne International, when it was warned off by AirServices Australia.

A full and well illustrated account of the sub-standard flight safety standards displayed by the Air-India crew has been published here on the Carry On site.

It nearly made Melbourne the setting for a fourth high profile wrong airport landing in recent times, as outlined on Carry On.

Or even a fifh if the Ethiopian landing of a 767 at the wrong airport near Mt Kilimanjaro in December is included in what looks like an epidemic of in-flight clumsiness to the general media,  yet is statistically insignificant given the overall volume of safe world wide air traffic movements.

The ATSB has confirmed that it has been notified of the Air-India incident but has decided that it will not launch on inquiry.

Based on the further information we received from the operator, air traffic control and from the crew we decided that there was nothing systemic that warranted an investigation. Basically, the system operated as it was designed to do.

Two pilots ask to evaluate the known details of the incident were divided over the ATSB’s decision. The pilot who supported the decision said that inter alia there was no probability that anything the ATSB might say or do would have the slightest effect on Air-India, and that it would amount to a costly and pointless exercise in hand holding.

The other pilot saw merit in an inquiry because he believed there was too high an incidence of flight path deviation incidents near Melbourne’s main airport, in part the result of ‘sub-optimally designed’ approach paths and that the Air-India incident was an opportunity to examine a bigger picture.

Both pilots believed that the Air-India 787 could have been pulled up with ease on the Essendon runway, which before Melbourne’s nearby International airport was built was used by jets as large as Boeing 727-200s in regular domestic service.  They were also aware of anecdotal accounts of a DC-10 lining up to land on the Essendon runway sometime in the 70s, and being warned off at the last minute.

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7 thoughts on “Air-India 787 warned off wrong Melbourne airport landing

  1. Ken Borough

    Not the first, and certainly won’t be the last! Heavy jets lining up for Essendon instead of Tullamarine have been occurring for decades. I well remember an Olympic Airways 747 trying to do so. I think you’ll find many more similar incidents. Now, when did OA stop flying to MEL?

  2. comet

    Maybe they should build an engineered materials arrestor system (EMAS) at the end of the Essendon runway to catch the next one.

  3. George Glass

    The approach over Essendon uses the Rwy 26 localiser for lateral guidance. Inadvertant selection of APP instead of VORLOC (or similar) means youre landing at Essendon. A known problem for a very long time caused by rubbish,archaic ATC design of approaches.Welcome to Australia, the worlds wealthiest third world country.

  4. George Glass

    Not to mention the slam-dunk approach after passing Essendon NDB. Another brilliant piece of design that has caught many over the years. Get rid of it and put in an RNP only approach.

  5. wildsky

    Nothing systemic??? Sounds like Pel-Air…

    So how did 2/3 or maybe even 4 pilots manage to miss that the flight path was setting them up for the wrong runway? If, as George suggests, a contributing factor is the approach design, isn’t that systemic?

    Even if Air India doesn’t give a toss (which I suspect is as unlikely as it is irrelevant), what about the rest of us seeking to learn from events that did not end up in tears? I wonder if J* is interested as part of their proactive and predictive risk analyses of B787 operations?

    Oh well, I suppose all of the valuable data has disappeared offshore by now, making the whole decision a bit moot anyway!

  6. Daniel

    George, the aircraft was not peforming the Lizzi star and hence was not carrying out the procedure you have mentioned. The Lizzi STAR lines an aircraft up with the EN 26 LOC, and has them crossing waypoint SHEED (basically overhead EN) before turning onto finals for ML runway 34.

    The aircraft had requested a VOR approach. From the flight track it looks as though they were either on vectors and reported the airfield visual before turning towards EN, or were completing the VOR approach and broke off from this after spotting EN.

    Either way, I believe approach have in the past used the statement “report runway 34 lead in strobe lights in sight” before approving a visual approach. Not sure if this is used anymore.

  7. George Glass

    Daniel, you might be right. But the approach is still a dog.Its caused too many incidents for too many years.Just get rid of it and put in an RNP approach.

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