AAIB Releases Report After easyJet A319 Landed Next To Glider Cables

2022-05-22 01:50:24 By : Ms. Chloe Zhou

The latest Air Accident Incident Report details a commercial airliner landing beside fully extended glider cables at a Hampshire airfield.

The report reveals that an easyJet Airbus A919 scheduled to receive maintenance was improperly cleared to land alongside glider cables this past May. No injuries were reported, and the aircraft successfully taxied to its destination.

The aircraft in question flew into Lasham Airfield near Alton in the United Kingdom. The small private airfield belongs to the Lasham Gliding Society and primarily used glider operations. The airport is also home to 2Excel Engineering, a Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO) specializing in Boeing and Airbus narrow-bodied aircraft.

Almost exactly a year ago, an easyJet Airbus A319 was sent from its base at London Gatwick airport for scheduled maintenance at Lasham Airfield. The airline sent a ‘Pre-Allocation Report’ to the operations department 2Excel Engineering on May 25th, 2021, notifying the airfield that an Airbus A319 bearing the registration G-EZAJ was scheduled to arrive from London Gatwick Airport at 0900 hrs the following day.

The investigation found that a flight plan was filed at 22:35 hrs that night, indicating a scheduled Time of Arrival of 0817 hrs, a full 43 minutes earlier than previously predicted. The flight plan was subsequently transmitted by email to the various parties on the airfield and the duty instructor of the gliding club, but not any members of the team responsible for handing the winches for gliding operations.

The following morning at approximately 0730 am, the gliding team began a maintenance procedure known as a cable reversal, in which the cables are reeled out to their full extent and the end of the cable attached to the winch is cut. The winch is then reattached with a splice to the opposite end of the cable. The procedure generally takes 10 minutes and requires the use of the length of grass along the southern edge of the runway.

The crew of the easyJet flight, G-EZAJ, radioed the duty Air-Ground Operator at Lasham at 07:53 am to inform him that the aircraft would arrive 25 minutes later and moved to depart Gatwick per the filed flight plan. The ground staff at Lasham radioed back that the airfield was not free yet, and the pilot might have to do a visual circuit.

The crew contacted Lasham Radio again at 08:19 am to advise they were on the approach at 6 NM distant and expected to join a visual circuit at 2,000 ft. In response, Lasham Radio reported to the crew that there was a delay in runway availability because of winch cables on the ground.

After a brief consideration, the Senior Fire Officer at the airfield concluded there was insufficient time to recover the cables while the incoming flight flew a visual circuit and consequently abandoned the attempt to do so. The officer then declared to the Air-Ground Operator that the runway was available without mentioning the position of the winch cables, and the aircraft was cleared to land. The Airbus A319 landed at 08:27 hrs with the winch cables still on the grass alongside the southern edge of the runway.

The investigation by 2Excel Engineering found an absence of coordination between airfield users. This lack of communication resulted in information not being shared between the flying operation and other sections of the gliding club. Consequently, the winch team was unaware that the arrival time of G-EZAJ was earlier than advised initially, while the flight crew was unaware of the planned winch cable maintenance.

No injuries or incidents occurred due to the miscommunication. The highest risk was avoided because the aircraft landed firmly within the touchdown zone rather than close to the threshold where the parachutes attached to the cables were in danger of being inflated by the jet wash of the landing aircraft. Ben Griffiths, Group Head of Communications for 2Excel Engineering, highlighted the effective investigation process:

"Working with LGS and the AAIB we co-operated fully with the investigation, as befits 2Excel’s just culture, which emphasises proper reporting of any incidents. As the report concludes, there were learning points for both parties and we look forward to continuing our close working relationship with LGS to ensure the safe operation of the airfield."

Lasham Airfield opened in 1942, and Lasham Gliding Society is now one of the largest gliding clubs in the world, with more than 220 gliders based at the Hampshire site. The airfield's convenient location allows it to be used as a base to store aircraft that are not currently in use, in addition to those needing maintenance and repair.

Current maintenance operations are still ongoing with an easyJet Airbus A320 bearing the registration G-EZWU taking off today, bound for London Gatwick.

Journalist - Jonathan served as an International Air Cadet Exchange Ambassador to Canada, and was stationed at RAF Lakenheath as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S Air Force. With a passion for discovering new destinations, he has visited over 70 countries from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. Jonathan holds honors degrees in both Nursing and European Studies. Based in Essex, England