Texts, fatigue factors in Jetstar botched landing

The flight from Australia?s Darwin to Changi Airport in 2010 had to abort landing and circle around for a second attempt after the wheels were lowered too late due to a series of distractions, Australian air safety officials said.

The captain received a phone call about weather in Singapore just before takeoff and, as he had forgotten to turn his phone back off, got a series of text messages from local mobile providers as the plane began its descent.

According to the report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) published yesterday into the incident, the first officer had earlier switched the controls off autopilot ?in order to hand-fly the aircraft and ?wake up?.?

Consequently, the plane still did not have its wheels completely down when it was just 500 feet (150 metres) above the aerodrome and had to pull out for a second attempt.

?A number of distractions during the approach degraded the crew?s situation awareness and resulted in the crew not detecting the incorrect aircraft configuration,? the ATSB said, indicating the texts and fatigue were key.

Both men had limited sleep before the flight, with the captain woken twice by fire alarm tests in the Darwin hotel where they were staying and the first officer receiving a phone call from housekeeping at 4.30 am.

The ATSB said it had not identified ?any organisational or systemic issues that might adversely impact the future safety of aviation operations? but the carrier, a budget offshoot of Qantas, had made a number of changes.

Jetstar has edited its manual to require descending aircraft to have their wheels in the correct position and landing checklists completed by 1,000 feet above the airport. It is also improving training on ?human factors? in flying.

? Nampa/AFP

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