A Jetstar A320, like the one that flew below the safe altitude limit when approaching the airport of Christchurch.
A Jetstar plane dropped below safe altitude limits before landing at Christchurch International Airport, according to an investigation.
The incident occurred on Sunday, August 6, 2017, around 6:45 pm, when the Airbus A320 flew from Wellington to Christchurch with 128 passengers and six crew members on board.
Upon arrival, the plane inadvertently descended below 760m, the minimum safety altitude for part of the arrival procedure.
The air traffic controller observed the incident, but the crew was not warned until the plane landed.
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Although it landed safely, the matter was referred to the Transport Accident Investigation Committee (TAIC).
As part of the investigation, the two pilots and two air traffic controllers were interviewed and a 32-page report was published on Thursday.
"Minimum distance and safe altitudes are defined for good reason: to provide a margin of safety between aircraft and terrain or obstacles." When an aircraft violates these limits, it is operating one step closer to an incident or serious accident, "said report.
"The captain was in Melbourne and had traveled as a passenger to Christchurch the day before. The captain was familiar with flights between Australia and New Zealand but did not fly domestically within New Zealand for several years.
"The first officer was based in Christchurch and regularly flew between Wellington and Christchurch. The first officer was now the flying pilot and the captain was the monitoring pilot.
"The plane has dropped below a posted minimum safety altitude for a segment of the arrival procedure because the flight crew did not maintain an adequate situational awareness of their aircraft's location relative to the standard arrival route.
"The flight crew chose to use an open descent procedure instead of the fully automated controlled descent mode, which required a higher level of human intervention to maintain the aircraft within the permitted limits on the route of arrival. "
TAIC found that the air traffic controller who witnessed the descent of the airplane below the minimum safety altitude did not follow the required procedures and warned the flight crew until they landed.
No further recommendation has been made, but one lesson from the research was that properly used automated flight navigation systems will reduce crew workload and result in safer flight operations.