A West Atlantic cargo plane was written off after a hard landing at Exeter Airport. 

A bumpy landing 

A West Atlantic Boeing 737-4Q8 cargo aircraft was returning from East Midlands Airport when it suffered a hard landing caused by the plane’s approach to the runway continuing even after the aircraft became “unstable”. 

The incident involving the Swedish-based operator happened on 19 January 2021. A report regarding the incident from the AAIB investigation (The Air Accidents Investigation Branch) was published on 19 May. 

The AAIB confirmed that damage to the aircraft has meant that it is beyond repair and would no longer be in use. 

The report shed further light on the incident:

“The commander [pilot] may have given the co-pilot the benefit of doubt and believed she had the ability to correct an approach then became unstable in the final few hundred feet of the approach.”

According to the report, the co-pilot did not know what caused the hard landing but she did not believe that there was a technical issue. 

Later, it became noticeable that once the aircraft left the runway it was “listing to the left”. The report said that this was the moment the crew realised that there was something “seriously wrong” with the aircraft:

“It explained the damage may have been lessened if the crew had ended the attempt at landing and tried again for a second time…The main body of the wings was ‘cracked and buckled’ and the top end appeared ‘creased and rippled’”. 

The report summarised its findings in the conclusion. As previously mentioned, it is believed that the West Atlantic Boeing 737 suffered a “hard landing” caused by “the approach being continued after it became unstable after the aircraft had passed the point where the crew had declared the approach stable and continued.” 

The conclusion continued, stating that regardless of high rates of descent being observed beyond the stable point and associated alerts, the crew continued to land. Discontinuing the approach may have saved the aircraft to the point where the damage sustained may have been “lessened”. 

The safety actions taken post-incident include only the commander being able to conduct the landing at Exeter Airport until further notice. New procedures have been put in place to monitor trends in pilots’ performance across recurrent checks. 

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