as long as humans will be humans, human error will continue. This is why I never understood the training mindset that a pilot should be able to dissect a fuel pump and discuss it on powerpoint. Who cares. It works or it does not. How do I handle the failure is the question. Or memorize the tail height of my airplane. When I decide to mail it, then I will learn it.
That is not what is killing pilots or getting pilots into trouble, even today, 2013. Basic 101 is. The same stuff that did it in 1950 is doing it today.
Stall/spin (typically on final)
VMC into IMC
ATC error not double verified by Pilot
Pilot error/read-back not double verified by ATC
Fatigue induced stuff
IFR Approach not flown according to plate specs
Fuel exhaustion (not sure when this will ever be completed solved, we have Proline 21, G-1000, etc gee whiz technology, that can fly an entire holding pattern on auto pilot, but this has not been solved yet. This "concept" is not new, engines have needed fuel since the Model-T Ford was invented)
Lined up on wrong runway (takeoff or landing phase)
Bungled missed approach/go-around
operating a mechanically unairworthy/unsafe airplane when you should know better
penetrating severe weather/conditions when you probably had an alternate choice and should have known better
final category: All of the above
almost all incidents/accidents involving professional crews (corporate, military, airline) fall into the above categories. Well, probably ALL aviation accidents.
DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: I own AAL and JBLU stock
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Years ago a United aircraft landed at Fort Lauderdale Executive instead off FLL. Landing at the wrong airport is a big deal, but I stand by my statement that I can see how it can happen. Northwest had a DC-10 land at Brussels instead of Frankfort about 15 years ago. Forget different airport, they landed in a different country. FWIW, they knew they weren't landing in Frankfort, but they were dis-oriented and decided best to figure it out on the ground. ATC had a huge hand on them ending up at wrong field. I know a Chautauqua flight landed at Elkhart instead of Soutbend about 12 years ago. A Northwest 320 landed at an airforce base instead of Rapid City in the last decade. These things are easier to do than you think. It will happen with no navaids, an unfamiliar airport that's not in your datatbase, at an airport with a similar layout with marginal weather and fatigue.
Looking at the approach plate for RNAV GPS 19L into McConnell, I noticed that the IF/IAF, WITBA, calls for 4000ft MSL and is about 8 miles from and 2600ft AGL above Col Jabara. The airport lines up for almost a perfect 300ft/mile approach to a 6000x100ft runway that is proportionally the same as a 12000x200ft runway (19L is actually 12,000X150, but signage and lighting for 300ft wide). I can see how its possible that they could get sucked in to seeing that field and just breaking off the RNAV approach and landing visually.
The mind is a terrible thing.....
Also, both KAAO 18 and KIAB 19L have a PAPI on the left and ALS with sequenced flashers (MALSR vs ALSF1). KAAO is depicted on the high and low charts, and on the Jepp approach plate to 19L, but it is not on the government approach plate.
If they picked up the KAAO PAPI and rabbit lights near WITBU, I can also see how they could get sucked off the approach. Especially since IAB would be 15 NM in the distance.
You may think it can't happen to you... You may be right. But it happened to someone and it is a worthwhile effort see how it happened and not just assume they were complete morons...
I'm really surprised that the consensus seems to be "Could happen to anyone" attitude. I'm not sure a private pilot in his Cessna could explain landing at the wrong airport? They make comedy movies with scenes like this!
And - it might not have been in his FMS Data Base? Doesn't the "DreamLifter" fly there routinely? How could it not be in the data base?
Does that mean that all the analog airplanes we've collectively ever flow (early model 747's, 737's, 727's, DC-10's, DC-9's) couldn't land at the "right" airport.
You guys are screwing with me ... right?
We are all human and human errors will continue to happen! Even with all the fancy equipment and the best training, etc..... human error is still going to happen. Airplanes still turn onto the wrong taxiway, get lost on the airport, and yes, land at the wrong airport. I seem to remember a C17 last year landing at the wrong airport. What is amazing, is how much pilots eat their own! I dont recall reading about that in "Fate is the Hunter"! State of the art airplane, two maybe three pilots upfront, ATC, etc... it happened! Learn from it, but don't sit back and judge the crew...they are one of us! And it will happen again!
I'm usually quick to jump on guys for speculating about accidents before the FACTS have been released. In this case no one was hurt, at least not that we know about yet anyway.
If ... "It could happen to anyone."
How come it's never happened to 99% of us (maybe more)? Should the 1% still have their licenses? It's been touched on very lightly here ... where was ATC? If the crew was, in fact, cleared for an Instrument approach ... why wasn't there a LOW ALTITUDE WARNING issued by ATC?
I can't think of a bigger screw-up (where people lived anyway).
Did they have to call in Boeing Test Pilots to get it out of there?
Yeah. Couple of guys with PHd's, slide rules, and pocket protectors flew it out. It's pretty much rocket science to get a 747 off 6000 feet of concrete. I think they threw on some tundra tires and a STOL kit before they left.