The pilots of a Jetstar flight had to abandon the landing just 500ft above the runway because the captain was distracted by his mobile phone and they had forgotten to lower the landing gear.
The details of the incident on the evening of May 27, 2010 came to light this week in a final report released by the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau.
The first officer was at the controls of the A321 jet, which was approaching Singapore’s Changi Airport and less than 2,500ft above the runway when text message alerts sounded on the captain’s mobile phone.
The first officer asked the captain twice to set a “missed approach altitude” into the flight control unit, but the captain did not reply and was “preoccupied with his phone”, the report said.
“The captain stated that he was in the process of unlocking and turning off his mobile phone and that he did not hear the call,” it added.
The first officer then inputted the setting himself.
Phone records showed the captain did not send text messages or take calls on the approach. The report found that the captain had forgotten to turn his phone off during the flight.
It wasn’t until the plane was at 700ft that the first officer realised the landing gear was not down.
Neither had begun the standard landing checklist or correctly set the wing flaps.
Seconds later, as the aircraft had passed 500ft, a ‘ground proximity alarm’ sounded, indicating that the landing gear had still not been lowered in the locked position.
Because the standard pre-flight checklist was not completed, the crew carried out a ‘missed approach’ in line with Jetstar procedures and landed successfully after a second attempt.
Investigators did not assign blame but concluded that a number of factors – including mobile phone distractions combined with fatigue – contributed to the aircraft not being ready for the approach and landing.
The first officer reported feeling tired as the plane began its descent, which the report said: “was probably due to his disrupted sleep the night before the flight” and that he “disengaged the autopilot during the approach in order to hand-fly the aircraft and wake up.”
It went on to say: “The first officer’s decision making was probably affected by fatigue” and that he may have been better prepared by taking a nap before the flight or a controlled rest.
Jetstar has responded by making training changes, and warning pilots to turn their mobiles off as part of pre-flight checks.
It has also increased the height at which pilots must complete their pre-landing checks.
Read the full ATSB report here.