Can I ask some of the "senior contributors" (amos, D.Dingo) and Ausatco and others what you guys think about the French system of giving a clearance to land on first contact with the tower. In over 3 years of receiving this type of clearance I never had a go around. Some lads did from time to time if the crew in front missed the appropriate twy. However I never witnessed this type of situation we have here in Oz. Last second clearances just did not happen.
Paul, I'm not sufficiently familiar with the French system to be able to critique it specifically.
The situation that prompted your question on the 1st page of this thread - ie, the ABC News Online report of the QANTAS aircraft arriving late on TWR freq and being unable to get a word in for a landing clearance when the runway was apparently clear - would be far less common, I would think, than the routine situation where you arrive on freq in good time and the runway is to be used or crossed by multiple movements before it's your turn.
It is true, the French system would fix the former, less common scenario, the one that you're querying.
But for the life of me I cannot see any logic in applying it to the second scenario, which, at the airport where I work, applies to almost every aircraft that calls on final.
I cannot see the value in a landing clearance when the landing area is clearly not clear, if you see what I mean Ie it's going to be used or crossed by many other aircraft before you use it.
Do the French (and the Yanks, for that matter) issue landing clearances on first contact when the landing runway is also used for departures? Or when crossing runway operations are in progress? Or when aircraft routinely have to cross the runway between movements to get to the holding point - eg all domestic jets to get to 34L at Sydney? I see all those as limiting factors in the French/US procedure, and I'd be interested to know what they do in similar circumstances.
In answer to some of your questions, I can give you some info with regards to LAX airport - although I haven't been there for a few years now.
The airport has two sets of parapllel runways in a north/south complex arrangement. One of each set of runways is usually used for takeoffs and the other runway is used for landings.
On first contact with tower, you are usually cleared for landing - presuming the conditions are VMC (which they usually are in LA). It is then up to the crew concerned to ensure that the runway is clear before landing. When conditions are IMC, things are a little more interesting. I only experienced one go-round at LAX and that possibility was pretty well advised early-on by ATC. The rest of the time it works reasonably well - although it does rely on everyone expediting their approach and occupying the active runway for the minimum ammount of time. Also, arrriving aircraft were often told to hold on the crossing taxiway and were then cleared enmasse to cross the takeoff runway when a gap in the sequence occured - a real Le Mans rush!!
I cannot see the value in a landing clearance when the landing area is clearly not clear, if you see what I mean
I, too, clearly share your clear concerns in this regard. Let us examine the recent Brisbane incident:
1) The aircraft calls the tower. Perhaps the call was acknowledged, I am not sure. Either way, a landing clearnce was not succesfully issued on first contact. 2) The aircraft continued approach, as cleared. 3) Tower attempted to issue a landing clearance, but was blocked by another transmission. 4) Despite a clear runway ahead, the 'anally retentive' pilot elected to go around, thus ensuring both the safety of the aircraft and compliance with the last received clearance.
Result: A technical 'incident' and the extra cost of a go around to the airline.
Now, let us imagine a similar scenario, but where a clearance is issued in advance:
1) The aircraft calls the tower and is issued a landing clearance, despuite the fact that a vehivle is still on the runway (on SMC frequency). 2) The aircraft continues approach and sets up for a cleared landing. 3) Noting that the vehicle has failed to clear the runway, the tower attempts to issue a go around instruction, but the transmission is blocked 4) The aircraft lands and collides with the vehicle.
Result: A collision.
Like Ausatco, I do not see the 'value' in an early landing clearance. It merely strips away one of the layers of safety which are designed to prevent collisions. If there is a sound reason which justifies this method, I have yet to hear it. Perhaps our US colleagues canb enlighten us.
What concerns me here is 'mindset' or 'confirmation bias'. A pilot who has not been issued with a clearance is more likely to continue the approach with a 'go/no go' mindset. That is, they will have a 'plan B' which will be something like: "If not cleared to land by xxxFT, I will call short final. If still not cleared, I will go around." This would be one more opportunity for both controller and pilot to ensure that the landing will be safe. If it goes wrong, the cost will, as in the BN incident, be economic.
On the other hand, a pliot who has been cleared to land will have a landing 'mindset'. ANy subsequent go around instruction will involve a late change to this mindset. That is, the go around will be a change of plan, as opposed to the selecxtion of an already existing plan.
I realise that, on first reading this, some pilots will take this as a slight on their professionalism and their adaptability to all situations. It is not intended as such, and I apologise in advance.
My point is that all humans (and I include pilots in that definition ) are subject to certain ways of thinking. It is not hard to find instances of 'mindset' which has led to disasters. For example, the Air Inter crew who set a 3,3000fpm ROD, believing it to be a 3.3 degree AOD. The point is that the system must be designed to be as error tolerant as we can make it.
Wow, what a thread and all because a pollie was on board!
I agree with AusATCO, 4711 and amos 2. It's the final "Safety Net" and possible lack of the "big picture" scenario from the flight deck - talking generally here - and of course, QANTAS SOPs.
The REAL problem in this case is that someone on the flight deck (allegedly) told the SLF (PAX) that the reason for the go around was that, "there was another aircraft on the runway". Wow! Where do we go from here? Did the crew LIE to the PAX?? What ELSE do you say in this circumstance? Trying to explain the complexities of aviation to your average punter is really a waste of time......unless there is a ferkin, big-mouthed pollie on board!!
I would submit at this late stage in the thread, that QF now have a bit of a "don't be afraid of going around" mindset following QF1. Indeed, in that incident QF15 had "gone around" minutes previously. If QF1 had done the same, it would never have happened....
Seems ironic really, on one hand being critisized for not going around, and then this clown Katter critisizes them for going around!
Having said the above last night, this morning there was a reply (shown below) from vector4fun to my query in ATC Issues. I can see no reason why it wouldn't work here. A downside is almost certainly increased R/T. At Sydney we'd be giving the traffic info required by the procedure all the time. While it would work, I don't know yet whether it would be an improvement or just a change.
Here is the actual rule from the U.S. ATC Handbook:
3-10-6. ANTICIPATING SEPARATION
Landing clearance to succeeding aircraft in a landing sequence need not be withheld if you observe the positions of the aircraft and determine that prescribed runway separation will exist when the aircraft cross the landing threshold. Issue traffic information to the succeeding aircraft if not previously reported and appropriate traffic holding in position or departing prior to their arrival.
EXAMPLE- "American Two Forty-Five cleared to land, number two following United Boeing Seven-Thirty-Seven two mile final, traffic will depart prior to your arrival."
"American Two Forty-Five cleared to land, number two following United Boeing Seven-Thirty-Seven two mile final, traffic will be an MD 88 holding in position."
"American Two Forty-Five cleared to land, following United Boeing Seven-Thirty-Seven two mile final, traffic will depart prior to your arrival."
NOTE- Landing sequence number is optional at tower facilities where arrivals are sequenced by the approach control.
I work at KAUS, we have two parallel runways, both of which are used for both departures and arrivals in a normal flow. We are an "up/down" facility, that is all controllers are rated in both the Tower and Approach Control, and rotate through all positions. SOP at my facility is that arrivals be turned over to the Tower between 15 and 5 miles from the airport, and, as Mike said, Approach is responsible for the approach sequence, Tower sets the landing sequence, blending any local pattern traffic into the flow of arriving traffic.
You should notice that the U.S. rule requires that we inform the pilot what and where the preceding aircraft is. We must also inform the arrival closest to the runway of any traffic we have holding in position on a runway for departure. Likewise, we must tell any departure holding in position about the closest arrival for that runway. The professional pilots I work with (and who are used to the U.S. system) seldom express any difficulty maintaining situational awareness of their position in the landing sequence or with departing traffic ahead. Of course, some of the newer pilots are a bit overwhelmed by all the chatter. It would be quite common here to have two or perhaps three aircraft cleared to land on each runway during busy traffic in VMC weather.
During IMC wx, we are required to maintain a stagger between arrivals on the parallel ILS approaches, so it would be uncommon for Tower to be talking to more than three or four (total) aircraft on approach for both runways. When the visibility deteriorates to the point we cannot physically see aircraft on the runways, or exiting the runways, then naturally, most controllers will get a bit more cautious. I certainly do. As yet, we do not have an ASDE system, but are (were) scheduled to receive one in a couple years. (Never believe good news until it's seen walking in the front door.)
The majority of the time, in VMC wx, the arrivals will already have the preceding aircraft in sight when contacting the Tower, OR, the spacing is great enough that separation is not a factor, providing the first aircraft is still mechanicaly capable of taxiing under it's own power after landing... Since in the U.S., Pilots are equally responsible for maintaining safe and proper spacing with another aircraft ahead, IF he has it in sight, , then the procedure is really seldom a problem. Obviously, the controllers bear most all the responsibility in IMC wx, but with proper spacing and appropriate groundspeeds and closure rates, again, we seldom have a problem with the procedure. If all else fails, send somebody around!
ps The entire U.S. ATC handbook is available here: