On 6 February 2012, the flight crew of an Airbus A320-232, registered VH-JQX, commenced takeoff from runway 16R at Sydney Airport, New South Wales. The flight crew consisted of a training captain and a captain under training, who was occupying the left seat and conducting the duties of the captain.
During the takeoff, one of the thrust levers was inadvertently moved forward of the required detent, which resulted in a thrust setting reversion to manual mode. The training captain identified the issue and initially made the required standard calls to the captain under training to indicate the issue with the thrust lever.
The training captain then made a call to indicate that the takeoff should continue, with maximum thrust selected, and the captain under training began rotating the aircraft below the required rotation speed. At about that time the training captain increased the thrust levers to the maximum thrust setting. After noting the aircraft’s airspeed was below the required rotation speed, the captain under training discontinued the rotation until a suitable airspeed was achieved prior to commencing the climb.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that the captain under training misunderstood the command from the training captain, which led to the early rotation. The training captain recognised the thrust lever asymmetry situation, however the captain under training did not, and this resulted in a miscommunication that was not resolved effectively between the crew.
In addition, the captain under training was transitioning from another aircraft type to the A320 and the manual thrust mode on the A320 was consistent with his experience of a normal takeoff on the previous aircraft type. This created a level of confusion for the captain under training and made it more difficult for him to recognise the thrust lever asymmetry situation. A situation where one thrust lever is in the detent and the other is not is indicated to the crew on the flight mode annunciator panel and is only displayed above 100 ft.
What has been done as a result
Jetstar have advised that they have incorporated a module into simulator training for all pilots covering incorrect thrust settings at takeoff. They have also released a communication to pilots on the responsibilities of the pilot in command during operational events.
This incident highlights the importance of good flight crew communication to ensure a shared understanding of the aircraft’s system status.