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Singapore Releases Final Report Concerning Emirates Airbus A380 Runway Excursion

by Staff

Summary

  • The captain of the flight, who was the Pilot Flying (PF) did not correctly respond to the lateral deviation of the Airbus A380.
  • The PF did not respond to two go-around callouts by the first officer, who was the Pilot Monitoring (PM).
  • Singapore’s TSIB concluded that this was an unstable approach, warranting a go-around.


The Singaporean Transport Safety Investigation Board (TSIB), operating under the Ministry of Transport (MOT) of Singapore, detailed that an Emirates Airbus A380, registered as A6-EVJ, broke three runway edge lights when it drifted to the right of Runway 02L centerline after it had landed at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) in March 2023.


Miscommunication about going around

The TSIB’s final report stated that at the time of the incident, the captain was the Pilot Flying (PF), while the first officer was the Pilot Monitoring (PM), with the Airbus A380 flying without any abnormalities between Dubai International Airport (DXB) and SIN. Initial weather information indicated that weather conditions would be “good,” when the crew contacted Singapore Approach, the latest data on Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) did not indicate any rain over SIN. As a precautionary measure, the crew prepared for both dry and wet runway landing at the airport.

Subsequently, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) transferred the flight from Singapore Approach to Changi Tower, with the flight crew using an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to Runway 02L. About 15 nautical miles (27.7 kilometers) south of SIN, the pilots observed some clouds over the airport, but after checking the weather radar, they concluded that the buildup was insignificant. However, a runway controller told the TSIB that it was raining over SIN and that ATIS’ information was updated accordingly. “The flight crew also told the investigation team that the aircraft was flying through heavy rain during the final approach,” TSIB continued.

As the aircraft descended, the pilots saw the runway before going below 200 feet (60.96 meters) Above Ground Level (AGL) when the rain suddenly increased, surprising the PF. The pilot also told the investigators that this affected the handling of the aircraft, yet did not elaborate. According to the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) data, the PF disengaged the autopilot at 180 ft (54.8 m) AGL.

Photo: Emirates

Subsequently, both pilots noticed that the aircraft was drifting right off the runway centerline, with the first officer calling out “centerline” to remind the captain to align the aircraft with the runway. The PF applied sidestick inputs to counter the drift, with the captain telling the TSIB that the offset off the centerline was still within safety limits. However, at about 30 ft (9.1 m) AGL, the PM called for a go-around, with the captain responding, “No, it’s OK.” Later, the captain said that he did not understand what the PM was saying, even though the first officer once again told the captain to go around when the aircraft was touching down. The PF did not respond to the PM’s call out, telling the TSIB that he did not hear the second request from the PM.

Just before the aircraft touched down on Runway 02L, the PF applied a sharp left rudder input, and while this had resulted in a bank degree of less than half a degree to the left and the aircraft turning left toward the centerline, the “aircraft continued to drift towards the right.”

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Punctured tires of the A380

Shortly after, the PF removed the rudder input, countering with a right rudder input, which resulted in the aircraft having a bank angle of about 4 degrees to the right. Once the aircraft touched down at SIN, it landed near the runway edge line, continuing to veer slightly to the right, with the PF trying to steer the Airbus A380 back towards the centerline, successfully doing so. The aircraft taxied back to the gate without further incident.

At the same time, the watch manager at Changi Tower noticed that the white runway edge light icons had turned blue, indicating that potentially more than 15% of the runway edge lights are unserviceable or that two adjacent lights are damaged. In addition, it could also mean that the electricity supply to the runway edge lights was faulty.

SIN’s Fault Management Center (FMC) informed the watch manager that three adjacent runway edge lights were damaged while the rest were still operative. Furthermore, the Airbus A380’s Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) warned the pilots about low tire pressure, with the ground crew informing the pilots that one of the right-hand (RH) main landing gear (MLG) tires had a puncture when the aircraft was at the gate. Further inspection showed that another RH MLG tire had “a circular incision.”

Damage to Emirates Airbus A380 tires after landing at SIN

Photo: TSIB

Meanwhile, ATC sent out two runway inspection vehicles to inspect the runway and the taxiways used by the A380 for any foreign object debris (FOD). Since the first vehicle did not find any FOD, controllers initially suspected that the low-pressure warning was unrelated to the three damaged runway edge lights. The second inspection vehicle found FOD, as well as the three broken runway edge lights. The debris was found on the runway’s shoulder, grass, and Taxiway W7.

Misjudging the drift to the right

The TSIB pointed out that per Airbus guidelines, pilots had to apply more roll input instead of rudder input, which would have potentially fixed the lateral deviation. “Applying rudder input is not an appropriate method to correct lateral deviations,” the investigators noted. Furthermore, Emirates’ standard operating procedures (SOP) read that if a landing cannot be completed as briefed, a go-around is necessary, with Airbus’ documentation stating that a go-around can be done as long as the thrust reversers have not been engaged.

“In this event, although the PF did perceive that the aircraft had drifted right of the centreline, he misjudged the magnitude of the drift and thought that the offset from the runway centreline was still acceptable for a safe landing.”

Landing path of Emirates Airbus A380 at SIN

Photo: TSIB

The TSIB said this approach could be categorized as unstable, meaning a go-around would have been prudent. Even if the PF expressed that the aircraft’s handling characteristics had changed, the Singaporean investigators could not determine “how the suddenness of the increase in rain intensity affected or could have affected the PF’s handling of the aircraft.”

In addition, while ATC does not have to check whether the pilots know the latest ATIS information, the then-current ATIS said there was rain over SIN. Still, since this was not a significant weather change, the controller determined that there was no substantial change in weather, which is why they did not inform the Emirates flight crew about the rain. However, the TSIB noted that this had not contributed to the incident since both pilots saw the rain and could have reacted accordingly, including initiating a go-around.

In conclusion, the TSIB stated that the PF did not manage to correct the drift to the right and did not consider a go-around, despite Emirates’ SOP saying that it is mandatory to abandon the approach when a go-around is called out. Although the PF told the investigators he had not heard the PM’s call-out, “the PF did not ask the PM to repeat or clarify the message but instead chose to continue to land.”

An Emirates Airbus A380 on the airport apron in San Francisco.

Photo: The Global Guy | Shutterstock

Following the incident, Emirates shared the information about the occurrence with all its pilots on March 17, 2023, and began including the event as part of its recurrent pilot training in August. Lastly, it reminded its pilots that once a go-around is called out, it must be executed, and the PM should be ready to take control of the aircraft.

In addition, the air traffic service provider at SIN conducted briefings to ATC, advising controllers to tell pilots about the prevailing weather conditions, including rain over the airport. The TSIB only had two safety recommendations: that Emirates would remind its pilots about the appropriate actions to fix a later deviation when landing and emphasize the importance of Crew Resource Management (CRM).

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  • Emirates, Airbus A380, Penultimate

    Emirates

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    EK/UAE

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Dubai International Airport

    Year Founded:
    1985

    CEO:
    Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

    Country:
    United Arab Emirates

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