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Proactive management of high workloads can limit risks on approach

The ATSB is encouraging operators and flight crews to consider the steps they can take to ensure they manage high and increased workloads so they can make appropriate decisions to ensure a safe landing.

Damaged runway threshold lights

While experiencing high workloads, a flight crew member’s attention can channel or tunnel towards a single task, drawing or distracting their attention away from their other task demands.

An incident involving a JetGo registered Embraer ERJ-135 at Middlemount Airport in Queensland demonstrates the impact this can have during a part of a flight traditionally associated with the highest accidents rate—approach and landing.

On 8 August 2017, during the final approach leg, the aircraft descended below its desired approach path and landed prior to the selected aim point, resulting in its main landing gear tyres colliding with two runway threshold lights just before landing.

While there were no injuries or damage to the aircraft as a result of the incident, its descent below the desired approach path and its collision with terrain, however small, were cause for concern.

The impact of high workload can have a significance impact on any flight crew and it affects needs to be managed and monitored systematically...

Stuart Godley, Director Transport Safety at the ATSB says the impact of workload can be deceptive with an individual not realising it has increased until it has a reached a high level. “The best way of managing workload is to reduce the level of work demands and distractions,” said Godley. “However, in this incident the flight crew were managing a number of different factors in addition to the approach and landing.”

The ATSB investigation found the flight involved a captain under line training, who was operating a new aircraft type with new operating procedures. This was compounded by the high workload associated with the training, and the existing workload demands of approach and landing. In addition, the investigation found an absence of approach slope guidance at the Airport.

“The impact of high workload can have a significance impact on any flight crew and it affects needs to be managed and monitored systematically, especially for less experienced flight crews or those operating a new type of aircraft,” Godley said.

In response to the investigation, the operator has have advised the ATSB they have taken various proactive safety actions to reduce the risk of a similar incident in the future, such as line training flights to no longer operate to Middlemount Airport, and updating their flight crew operating manual (FCOM) to include material on runway visual illusions. The flight crew also underwent further training in approaches without a visual approach slope guidance.

The ATSB is encouraging operators and flight crews to consider the steps they can take to ensure they manage high and increased workloads so they can make appropriate decisions to ensure a safe landing.

“Making appropriate decisions and maintaining a stable approach profile is one of our key messages in our SafetyWatch list of concerns,” Godley said.

The ATSB has released its final report into a collision with runway lighting involving Embraer ERJ-135, VH-JGB, Middlemount Airport, Queensland, 8 August 2017. Read the final report AO-2017-080.

 
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Last update 05 December 2017