Well, having PAPI in place won't prevent a pilot from flying low and impacting terrain.
The Citation X has EGPWS that must have warned the pilots about the inappropriate flight envelope in relation to the terrain. The interesting question is, what on-board events derailed pilot awareness and lead to this devastating event? The answer to this question would certainly be answered with the evaluation of the flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder that have been salvaged.
Fact is, there must have been an unusual cyclone of activity surrounding the flight configuration which eventually lead to this disaster.
This discussion on which mistake the pilot may have made or what kind of technology could have prevented is pointless. Shame on the city fathers of Frankfurt for not providing a suitable airport for executive jets. EDDF is congested and in the hands of airlines. Capacity for business jets is insufficient. It shows how this city values industry leaders who bring business to Frankfurt and provide jobs. As long as the sheer size of an airplane is considered a benchmark on its importance any low cost carrier can rival an executive jet (apart from a few). Egelsbach is below any standards for high performance jets during nighttime. Even in decent weather conditions during daytime it is challenging to fly a high performance jet under VFR in that cornered airspace with little leeway for error. The way business travelers are treated tells a lot about the city. For too many years at EDDL there has been a shabby shack at one end of the airport where you could meet all top nobs while the main terminal for (mainly cheap tourist flights) has been a stylish noble building. You could see the same thing at EDDK and a number of other airports in Germany. At least Duesseldorf has a nearby general aviation alternative with EDLN and in the meantime there is a decent executive terminal (owned and operated by Jet Aviation). This crash at Egelsbach may fall into the category of pilot error and thus be first and foremost the pilotís responsibility. Failure to offer a suitable alternative to EDDF, however, is what we should focus on. In the meantime it should have become clear that Egelsbach does not qualify as an EDDF alternative.
Corvus is exactly correct. The lack of access to Frankfurt puts a lot of pressure on operators and crew. I do not know the landing distances required for a C750 but I would surmise marginal, putting even grater strain on the crew. Together with the reducing visibility and the "unuser friendly" ATC enviroment there once you are out of the system it was all the cheese holes ligning up perfectly. The people who regulate the slot sytem at EDDF must take the moral blame for this and more will happen unless GA is given a fair access to slots for what is the only really suitable airport for Frankfurt. But I guess they do not care for morality, only profit.
hawker, don't be jumping to conclusions. It is not known (yet) if the pilot even ASKED if a slot in EDDF was available to him or not. And in an emergency he obviously can divert there or to Mannheim, Frankfurt-Hahn, or other fields. NO ONE forces a pilot to continue flying into a short (1166m) runway with 4 knots tail wind with a Citation x, on a foggy night, except the pilot himself.
So far it is assumed that it was a private, non-commercial flight. There were guests waiting for the plane at the terminal to board and continue on to Bratislava. I'm sure the pilot was not prepared for the situation he discovered when approaching EDFE, perhaps hasn't even performed a VFR approach in that type of aircraft for ages (if ever). But that's all speculation...let's wait for the accident investigation report.
Another accident by an A/c not suitable for the A/F
A Citation X cannot land in 1166 m sorry
There are too many operators operating Aircraft on the ??(PRIVATE CAT)
operating into short Shitty airfield with a minimal of aids instead of saying No Frankfurt slots then we go elswere NOT EDFE and if the pax dont like it Hard SxxT best they arrive with all in tact than what happened to the above
After 35 years in this business Im glad Im out to many acciedents by crews and aircraft operating into marginal //Illegal airports because pilots wont say NO
They normally end up in Body Bags with no regards for there faimiles they leave behind while the Fat Bosses who dont understand NO still make fortunes and take big Bonuses
Stand up and say NO to this time of operation and make the passengers travl a few miles more to opertate from a decent airport
Shout at me if u wish for above comments but there are people out there who know what Im saying
The Rest of the COWBOYS GET ON YOUR HORSES and surcummbe to the tyrants and hope you live to get your pay check
true, Mannheim isn't a winner either, though it does have IFR which EDFE doesn't.
@learjet50 I agree... but in this case it seems the boss himself may have been the pilot! (just rumors so far so please don't take it as the truth... this is a rumor site after all). He should have known the runway length, he should know his aircrafts limits, he should know that only a PAPI is available, etc. etc. Again, we're starting to speculate again.....
Facts: The Pilot was the owner, he has landed in EDFE before in a CE-525,CE-560XL,CE-680 and he had level D simulator training going into EDFE.Otherwise I agree with learjet 50 but no rules prevent a "gambler" who can afford such an aircraft and the training from doing what he did. This owner/pilot was "special". Let's wait for the BFU accident report.
There was a chap called porcorosso or something similar who used to post a lot on PPRuNe. I remember him describing some of the crm issues of having the owner sit in the other seat.
Attempting a night vfr approach in a Citation X into an 1100m field in near cat 2 conditions would suggest questionable judgement.
However from articles in Flying magazine and elsewhere I know these heavy iron biz jets can sometimes be equipped with head up and even synthetic vision. I got the impression that this was a way around the fact that quite a lot of biz jets are not autoland capable.
One hypothesis I am sure the Bfu will investigate is whether slant range played a role. It is perfectly possible to be visual at a thousand feet looking through the mist from above. As you get lower you are looking through more of it and lose visual reference with the runway. This is is obviously not good at night with no ils etc.
If you had all the kit and knew how to use it maybe this kind of approach would not sound so crazy. But the end result is pretty indicative.
I agree, a Citation X had no business on a runway this short, especially at night in anything but the best of conditions. I know there will be some "Chuck Yeager" types out there who will proudly assert that they can and have landed there, but the fact of the matter is even if it is possible, and indeed it is, the margin for error there even in the best of conditions is simply too narrow to consider landing such a jet except in all but the best of conditions, on which occasion this was demonstrably not, despite again the rantings of the "Ueberprofis" regarding the semantics of VMC, VFR or MVFR or it either being IN or OUT of limits performance wise. Despite assertions to the contrary, a game with unknown variables cannot always strictly be black or white, despite our best efforts to make it so. Charts and graphs and calculated performance numbers are fine and all, but they do not take into account all the variables that can change at the last minute, a fog bank, or a sudden tailwind or another plane exiting the runway too slowly, a blown tire or a reverser that won't deploy or whatever. Those unexpected things are why the prudent pilots pad their performance calculations where they can. I don't know of many pilots who daily fly with exactly minimum fuel as per flight plan either without putting a little extra on for things like the inevitable holds in Moscow that are not etched into the regulations and thus not officially taken into account either, despite their daily reality. Quite simply this plane should have gone to EDDF in the first place.
Part of the puzzle seems to have been set in place if I am to believe the assertions that the Commander was the Owner also. There seems to be a peculiar characteristic of highly successful people (or simply people who inherited too much money and thus think they are highly successful), that they are invincible. In America the term for high performance airplanes affordable to the wealthy and overly risk adverse is "Doctor killer". I used to work for such a fellow, and there but for the grace of God goes he (and many of his pilots) because when you push things to the limit, eventually you snag a ragged edge somewhere and the whole game stops. In any case, when I started feeling uncomfortable there, I quit, and though I was jobless for many months as a result, at least I slept well. But the cocky self sure boss will never be convinced of his mortality and fallibility despite a hundred flashy CRM courses, he will always think he can get it on where "lesser mortals" can or will not. And it's always too bad that other people have to die when the "driver" thinks he's the best driver in the world and does something stupid.
My thinking is that this fellow did a dive and drive in his shiny Citation X. And he hit something he didn't see in the dark, which is obviously what happened. He didn't expect to hit cumulo-granite or nimbus-pine of course, but he did. Why? Because of a false sense of security no doubt, followed by an overabundance of self confidence also no doubt. We all know that following the VASIS or PAPI leaves us quite comfortably down the runway on touchdown (as well as comfortably above the terrain and obstacles on final approach!). However, in daytime when we can see the terrain and obstacles and runway we are often led into a false sense of security with regard to the margins of safety built in. So a lot of times when approaching such fields, one tends to prefer being "a little low" on the PAPI in order to squeeze as much asphalt out of the landing as possible, rather than aiming for the touchdown zone and possibly floating and ending even one inch off the other end of the runway as a result. It's the aeronautical equivalent of taking money out of your left pocket to put into your right, you are in the end no richer, you are "kiting checks" and in the end will have to pay for the deficit one way or the other some day. Most of the time if you drove it on with a red over red approach, you know you will still not clip any trees or rocks and land right on the threshold or close to it. MOST OF THE TIME. Just watch the action at Lugano or Samedan or London City or Egelsbach or anywhere else the performance charts say you can get in there because the runway is 3500 feet long and your charts say you can land on 3450 feet and the boss says it can be done so you must go. "Flieg, oder flieg raus" as they say in German (fly or get fired). And too many pilots risk it for their jobs, and too many cocky "owners" risk it because they think they are "Uebermenschen" who are capable of such feats without fail.
I don't know Egelsbach personally but there are plenty of other crashes where the pilot had sight of the runway and went below the glide path or the published flight path and hit a rock that was invisible of course in the dark until it is hit. I imagine with the toys this airplane had, that the crash was right on centerline though. Also noteworthy and true is the comment that executive aviation is given the short shrift at Frankfurt. Really it is a disgrace that such an important global player economic powerhouse city relegates its executives to a mickey mouse short single runway airport with no instrument approaches. Again, the tail is wagging the dog, where someone will wail that extending the runway will cause more noise or endangers the flock of yellow bellied sap suckers that roosts in a marsh near there once every decade. Personally I prefer the hushed noise of a hundred landing airplanes to the loud dull noise of even one crashing. But that is economics and politics, not to mention the side effects of NIMBY thinking (not in my back yard!).
Though I am surprised that the "Jet Set" doesn't have more influence in German politics even at the municipal level to get the runway there extended and to build an ILS, or to offer a suitable alternative. That may be the only good news here, because anywhere else, the money would have greased the political skids a long time ago and the runway would be extended even if they had to bulldoze Grandma's house to begin with. And to hell with the yellow bellied sap sucker.
Finally, if the owner was Commander, then very likely the FO again meekly went to his death like so many others in the pre-CRM era without uttering any protest to the act of attempting that landing in that aircraft in those conditions. The history of accident investigation is replete with FO's who knew something (or everything!) wasn't kosher, but fearing for their jobs, they said nothing and crossed their fingers, or trusted in their Captain's skill and judgement. It sucks being a co-pilot knowing you may not get another job with your low hours if you speak up and get fired. But I have always said it is better to be alive and out of work than dead on the job, and it is better to arrive late in this world rather than early in the next. And I have one rule that I stick to, that I have already sadly had to use, and that is that I consider my priorities in the following order only: Life, License, and finally job. I've lost a job once or twice, but I still have a clean License (and Certificate even for those who might get involved in semantics - I have both), and I have my life, and a good conscience too.
This was indeed another needless tragedy, and I await the outcome of the official report not with morbid curiosity or Monday morning quarterbacking in mind, but out of genuine interest in what measures (tombstone legislation) will be taken to help prevent such a needless tragedy from happening again. The only prediction I will make is that one way or another, this will be another "classic" case ruminated over in many a CRM class. Hopefully the lessons learned here will continue to at least save lives down the road.
My condolences to all who lost loved ones in this terrible accident also.
As I was writing this, it seems that the mother of the poor FO seems to have verified my thesis, because only after posting my comments did I see the unfortunate commentary of "lost our loved one" posted while I was writing. My sincerest and most heart-felt condolences to you!
I too am very sorry to hear of your loss. Just for your information this airfield is I believe owned by Warren Buffett's company, which also owns Netjets and Flight Safety, who provide a lot of the simulator training for this size of aircraft. I do not think the findings of the investigation will be swept under the carpet therefore. However lets wait for the official findings and hopefully at least something positive will come out of this tragedy.