Basics Again

August 1, 2013 by Bruce Landsberg

SW Gear Up Landing LGA

There was another landing mishap last week at LaGuardia when a Boeing 737 ended up with a collapsed nosewheel. In the final seconds of the visual approach, according to the NTSB, the pitch attitude went from two degrees nose up to three degrees nose down. The results prove that big airplanes don’t like to wheelbarrow any more than little ones. Mechanical or pilot anomaly? We’ll find out shortly.

And just when you think you’ve heard it all,  early this week, the FAA said it was advising foreign carriers against executing purely visual approaches into SFO as a result of watching some rather bizarre performances from crews from other countries—several resulting in go-arounds. Good that they aborted a poor approach—question is why it was needed.

CBS news noted, “The FAA decided to recommend the GPS-based instrument system ‘out of an abundance of caution’ the agency said Sunday in a prepared statement. Pilots on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had been cleared to make a visual approach when the plane crash-landed on a runway at the San Francisco airport [on] July 6. Three girls died, and 180 people were injured. The FAA says that since then, pilots for Asiana and other foreign carriers have had more aborted landings than usual while trying to make visual approaches. The agency didn’t provide exact numbers.”

So the FAA has suggested that foreign air carrier pilots may not be capable of hand flying a visual approach? It gets you to wondering what else couldn’t possibly go wrong. A modest suggestion is that if crews are getting so little practice on long haul international routes that regular simulator time in the fine art of hand-flown visual approaches would be an excellent idea. Of course, another thought is for the long haul types to fly a few short legs once a month, in country, to maintain their skills. That may not be practical as the big Boeings and Buses aren’t often used as city hoppers. Still, this is not a place for rookies.

All of this serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that angle of attack reigns supreme and that nose wheels are not for landing. Let us reserve final judgment until the NTSB gets through its work—the results should be of great interest to all pilots.

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Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Alexander richards

    If you listened to the ATC recording, you would hear that southwest 345 is on the ILS to 4- not a visual approach.

  • Bruce Landsberg

    Alexander ….

    Not sure what you’re getting at re the SWA accident. Visual, ILS in VMC or IMC, the touchdown still has to be made on the main gear. There is some additional info that is just coming out that there was a transfer of control at about 400 AGL – so something was going on but we don’t know much at this point.