On 24 July 2013, an Airbus Industrie A320 aircraft, registered VH-FNP (FNP) was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight from Perth to Newman, Western Australia.

Prior to reaching the top-of –descent point, the crew conducted a full approach briefing. This included the decision to use Flap Full for the visual approach.

Newman had a lot of aircraft movements both into and out of the airport that day. The pilot in command (pilot monitoring) focussed on maintaining separation for FNP, while the first officer (pilot flying) maintained the aircraft on the approach.

The crew reported the aircraft was on the correct glidepath and at the correct approach speed. This is confirmed by the flight data recorder (FDR) information.

By 500 ft above ground level (AGL) the landing gear had been extended and Flap 3 selected. As the visual approach had been programmed into the flight management guidance system, the crew expected to receive the automatically generated 500 ft AGL call.

At about 231 ft radio height the crew received a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) warning “TOO LOW FLAP”. Full flap was selected at about 185 ft and the aircraft landed shortly after.

Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) have initiated two safety actions in regard to the requirement to maintain track during go-around procedures and further training for the crew.

Handling and management of approaches is one of the SafetyWatch items on the ATSB priority list.

A United States Navy/National Aeronautics and Space Administration research report Cockpit Interruptions and Distractions: A Line Observation Study targets some of the actions that pilots take, when forced to make decisions, outside their well-practiced sequences.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 26