View Full Version : Inexperienced Pilots of LX 3597

27th Nov 2001, 23:58
The captain of Crossair plane that crashed in Zurich had 19'305 flight hours but only 300 on ARJ.
'til tere nothing unusual. But the copilot had only 300 total flight hours !!! You need 150 hours to begin your ATPL in Switzerland and about 50 for training. That means the copilot had less than 100 hours with Crossair.

It's clear that interactions between two experienced pilots or between one experienced and one beginner are not the same.

Perhaps the problem is there instead of the standard VORDME approach common in many airports throughout the world.

28th Nov 2001, 00:13
I think that when you look at the captain and try to decide on his experience you surely cannot regard him as inexperienced even if this was his first flight on the aircraft. With 19 000 hours plus ( and I would assume quite a whack flying heavy aircraft)this guy must have been thru all types off approaches numerous times on various types of aircraft??

The Guvnor
28th Nov 2001, 00:42
The question begs itself though that how much help was the co-pilot to the Captain when things started to get hairy? I think it's in circumstances like this that you can see why insurance companies are very reluctant to allow people with less than 1,000 hrs TT into the right seat of an airliner.

28th Nov 2001, 01:26
HOLD EVERYTHING!!! Are we, supposedly professionals, going to start pre-judging this case? So, the F.O. was low-houred, so what? It's not the hours that count, it's the training, the attitude and the ability. The aviation community has lost two of its members, the last thing we need is for people to be fighting over their bones already.

28th Nov 2001, 02:31
Not now Guv.

Hand Solo
28th Nov 2001, 03:12
Well its interesting that the insurance companies have no problem whatsoever insuring the BA shorthaul fleet even though most new P2s have just 200 hours. Incidentally, with the growth of the Airbus fleet it used to be commonplace to have co-pilots with less than 300 hours total time and Captains with less than 100 hours on type.

28th Nov 2001, 03:45
Hand Solo,
You are very right when saying that a single inexperienced (but qualified) crew member on a cockpit crew is perfectly ok these days, however the problem here is that Crossair teamed up 2 inexperienced pilots!
I can assure you I have never heard of anything like that at any other company!
As a F/O I have flown with captains fresh on the plane too, but I can assure you they would not have been teamed up with an equally junior co-pilot (less then 500hrs on type)!

Besides, if the F/O was indeed very new to the company (less then 100hrs) how come he is alredy fully released? Surely they must have something like line training after you have finished your simulator check?

28th Nov 2001, 03:55

Couldn't agree more!

In the past I have flown with 250 hour FO's who I would have described as some of the most professional in the business, attitude, ability, airmanship - they had the lot. At the same time we had 5000-10000 hour guys who I wouldn't trust to make the tea.

Certainly experience is important but it is overall ability that counts.

Hand Solo
28th Nov 2001, 04:00
BA do indeed crew both low hours FOs and low hours on type Captains. your average BA cadet will join the company with about 180 hours, do approx 44 hours in the sim then base training. After that its 40ish sectors with a training Captain before being signed off. In a busy shorthaul fleet this could quite feasibly be just 60 hours. After that you are considered to be on a 'Consolidation line' for a further 40ish hours. Net result is you can be signed off your consolidation line with less than 300 hours total (albeit 100 hours in type and about 80-90 sectors under your belt). Not sure how long Captains are on consolidation for but I'm confident they would be clear by 100 hours. BA do not permit crew members on consolidation lines to fly together, but its quite feasible for the scenario I mentioned above to take place. By and large it seems to work well with a highly experienced Captain managing the operation and a technically proficient FO ensuring he doesn't get confused by the new computers.

28th Nov 2001, 04:08
I agree with Herod.
Let's see what caused this before we start going on about crew experience. Flying an instrument approach is far from rocket science. I'm sure there were other factors involved.

28th Nov 2001, 04:29
ATR,Guvnor and tolipanebas could I request that you communicate your nonsense on less tragic topics.

ATR I find your postscript highly distasteful in the circumstances.

[ 28 November 2001: Message edited by: westman ]

Willie Everlearn
28th Nov 2001, 05:15

Your comments are spot on.

While hard to accept by some, they are none the less realistic.

Training is of vital importance. Experience is not a word to be used or wasted on those with less than a senible amount of 'time' in the air. Experience is priceless and 200-300 hours doesn't cut it. Anyone with less than 1000 hours of REAL ME/IMC EXPERIENCE has no business operating an aircraft like this. Full stop! If indeed the people involved have the level of experience mentioned in these posts.

While this comment is surely to draw guffaws and negativity from some on this forum. It doesn't change a thing.

No one nationality has a monopoly on licencing and licencing standards. Or intellect. The industry is rife with minimum standards. Whoever allowed this level of experience on the flight deck of this aircraft needs to immediately re-evaluate his flight deck resources.

Human Factors safety research will also confirm this fact and anyone studying the subject will agree with either of our statements.

These accidents are tragic. Our sentiments and condolences surely and unanimously go out to all of those involved or affected.

The picture in aviation right now is desperate and getting worse by the day.

28th Nov 2001, 05:34
"Certainly experience is important but it is overrall ability that counts."(nightmale)

Couldnt disagree with you more.Survival on the flightdeck is 10% ability and 90% judgement(which can only come from experience).Suggest you re-read Fate is the Hunter.Its a great cure for anyone who has absolutely no idea what commercial flying is all about.Its old but its tenets are as true today as when they were written.Failing that,ask any accident investigator which factor crops up again and again in pilot-error accidents?I can assure you it wont be loss of motor skills.

Willie Everlearn
28th Nov 2001, 05:53
Sorry gang.

As an addendum to my previous note...

I would not rush prejudge this crew and it's abilities. We simply don't know what happened and out of respect, I wouldn't pretend, even for an instant, to know what happened. Having, I'm certain, to have been tested by regulatory authority, both were certainly 'qualified' to operate this aircraft.
I simply wish to make the point that Experience at 200-300 hours has no business on the flight deck of this aeroplane.

Thanks. :(

Dr Know
28th Nov 2001, 09:48
Had the opportunity to fly with the FO on my second last flight with LX. He just came off line training. Spent two days on a rotation, a fine aviator. How he operated in an emergency I would not know. The fact is we lost a young aviator. All of us have to start some where, lets leave this to the board to determine what effect experience/inexperience had in this tragedy.

Just a thought, what’s best, flying with a youngster with 300 hours that’s as keen as mustard or a 2000 hour know it all jog. (There is enough of those at LX – Must add, not all, so don’t take it personal)

28th Nov 2001, 11:29
There are some pretty sad comments by some pretty sad folks on this thread. Some of us here knew the crew of flight 3597 and can attest to the ambition and drive throughout the f/os' training, company training, and ability of line ops..

Out of respect to all of our colleagues we loose, on flights anywhere let's concentrate on the events leading up to the accident rather than tarnishing their memories.

the maker
28th Nov 2001, 13:18
Willy Everlearn,

It is your type of guys that's a danger to a CRM environment. In-experienced FO's flying with will have more trouble speaking up to you when you ****-up something. Type's like you will have more trouble accepting inputs from your co-worker on the other side of the pedestal. And it is exactly this guy that is going to save yours arsch one-day.

So please grow over your frustration of 5000 hours of banner-towing which were needed to qualify you for your first job.

Eff Oh
28th Nov 2001, 14:23
Some of the comments on here are total bo***x! I was an F/O with the UKs second largest scheduled carrier with 250hrs. I was flying a turboprop. Now flying a B757 into some of the worst airports in Europe. When I got that job I had 900hrs! If I did not have the ability, I would not be in the job! Some of the worst flying I have EVER seen in my life, has been from guys with 10,000+ hours. So wisen up!

You know NOTHING about what went on, on this flight deck, so SHUT UP 'TILL YOU DO!!!! How dare you say that all 200hrs pilots have "no place being on a flightdeck!" How many accidents have there been in the past with 200hr pilots in airliners??? It is people like you who that brings out all the bad points in this industry. All the ego bashing, jealousy, and "I'm better than you" [email protected]! Quite frankly, I find it APPALING to post such nonsense when people are grieving over losing former collegues and friends!

Eff Oh

Few Cloudy
28th Nov 2001, 14:38
A lot of emotional, over the top comments here. Fact is,

1) We don't know who was at controls.

2) We don't know why the aeroplane crashed.

3) We don't know what effect anybody's type experience had or could have had.

In short, we certainly don't know enough to start a slanging match.

Even now it seems that the pilots of the Swiss scene are at each other's throats, when they need each others'good will more than ever. This will not help, gentlemen.

As others have mentioned it is also unethical and callous to criticise a colleague at this time.

Capt H Peacock
28th Nov 2001, 15:42
In the absence of any data from the accident itself, many find that speculation is unwelcome. In this incident, there are points however that I would like to address in the most general sense. I find particularly disturbing, the attitude of some, that instrument flying is somehow easy and doesn’t deserve careful and meticulous planning, proper briefing, and accurate flying backed up by close monitoring. Those protagonists are quite simply wrong.

There is nothing intrinsically dangerous about Zurich/Kloten or its many instrument approaches and their variations. There are however a number of local factors which cannot be ignored by the professional pilot. Not the least of these is the surrounding terrain. The obvious proximity of mountainous areas presents its own problems, which manifest themselves as katabatic, and valley winds that give notorious tail components onto the main southerly runways. This is often exacerbated by the entertaining speed requirements of Zurich ATC.

Furthermore, radar vectoring, particularly at busy times can lead the unwary into close proximity with the terrain if followed for extended periods. You should always ask yourself ‘How long am I prepared to accept this heading?’, ‘If I lose radio, how shall I manoeuvre to avoid the hills?’. You might also consider the fact that holding for up to 45 minutes is not uncommon last thing at night as the noise ban takes effect. Take the fuel rather than wish you had it later. The last thing you want is a low fuel state distracting you from the careful planning required.

More importantly, there are a number of little ‘hillocks’ surrounding the airport that need to be considered in your briefings and planning for all approaches and departures from Zurich. Staring with the southerly approaches, there are two outcrops, which come close to the approach surface. One is at about 8d and for an on-slope aircraft gives only about 1400’ safe clearance, and the other at 4d which comes even closer. ILS approaches to these runways need to be conducted in such a way as to avoid infringing the GPWS envelopes for mode 4 & 5 warnings. Remember also that EGPWS will give alerts 40 – 60 secs before projected impact with solid reds. Early configuration and careful attention to energy profile management will alleviate these potential pitfalls, and in my opinion are best avoided by a continuous descent profile, remaining on the 300 ft/nm slope from as soon as possible after leaving the holding fix. These are important criteria that require careful briefing, especially with new or inexperienced colleagues.

The procedural and non-precision approaches are even more exacting than the ILS because of the lack of radio slope guidance and wider statistical scatter of ‘on-track’ approaches. A non-precision approach is a means of securing a stabilised visual approach from an IFR transition. The VOR onto RWY 28 strikes me particularly as having one or two points that require specific attention. Three or four minutes extra in the planning and briefing would not be wasted in my opinion before commencing this approach. Firstly, the approach path is very short, scarcely 20nm from the ZUE beacon to touch down. Adherence to track and vertical profile is essential to ensure safe separation from the surrounding high terrain and ‘hillocks’, and in my opinion the aircraft should be configured at least with gear down and approach flap setting from the ZUE beacon. Configuration changes and attendant trim changes will not assist accurate flying after this point. The final turn onto the inbound course is particularly challenging, since it is just 7nm from touchdown, less than 1500’ above the local terrain, and requires the aircraft to be on track and in the final landing configuration as you roll out. With the strong westerlies that sometimes predicate this approach, such parameters are not easy to achieve. Remember also that this is a VOR approach, the beam bar is not as sensitive as an ILS localiser, and will not receive the enhancement that many modern flight systems apply to localiser deviation. The rate of closure may be slower than you might expect, and an early or rapid turn onto FAC would leave the aircraft North of track and outside the parameters to commence the final descent. Turning any earlier than the lead radial would put you dangerously close to the local terrain and in no circumstances should the approach be continued.

It is important to consider also that during the winter months, altimeter temperature error correction MUST BE APPLIED to the heights given on the plate. The barometric altimeter will overread by 40ft/1000’ above the airfield reference (HAT for most purposes) for every 10° below ISA. On the night in question, with a temperature of 0° at Kloten, this would have meant adding 4.8% to all of the heights on the approach. Remember there is no radio slope guidance, and therefore the barometric altimeter is the only source of vertical profile indication.

The missed approach presents its own problems for terrain clearance and for that matter departures too off RWY 28. Without going into too much detail, an aircraft in the engine out case is likely to have a genuine GPWS warning even at scheduled performance if even slightly off the advertised path, the KLO 255R. See what your aircraft would do in this case.

This accident is especially tragic since it happened to a local operator probably well used to this approach. You must ask yourself how you might perform the approach in your aircraft with your SOP’s. What would be the effect of icing? On some aeroplanes, engine antice requires increased engine power, affecting your ability to control energy. Some companies require a hand over of control during the final phase of the approach, some companies advocate an immediate descent to MDA at the final step down fix. For my part I would fly it fully configured and as a 3.7°/370 nm profile so as to be at the MDA of 2390’, 3.25 miles from touchdown. That way the aircraft is in a stable landing configuration at you enter the visual segment.

End of rant. If you take anything away from this, all I ask is that you talk about this over a pint in the pub, or in the crew bus, but whatever you do don’t leave it ‘til your just leaving the hold.

God rest the victims of this accident. Safe flying.

PS: I get the impression that some people think I'm having a pop at the Crossair crew. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have a duty to your passengers though to examine the issues raised to see if there's any of your skills that you might think about improving in the light of these tragic events. If you, like me, try to learn something new every day then I hope my post has helped you to think. If you know everything already, perhaps you might post your details so that I can avoid flying with you in the future.

[ 28 November 2001: Message edited by: Capt H Peacock ]

ATC Watcher
28th Nov 2001, 15:44
As I said earlier on the MK post I find it distasteful to the extreme to start bashing the airline, and now here the crew, before the bodies are burried, let alone the facts known. Rumor network or not.

Think about all those involved possibly reading this !
Would you like your kids to read the above if it was you that died in that crash ?

When the investigation is complete it will be time to reflect of who did what and who did or did not have experience....

At this stage I only want to pass my condoleances to the families of those that lost their lives and my sympathy for Crossair.

28th Nov 2001, 16:12
I have deleted the text of my post in the light of the reasonable post from Pprune Towers below.

[ 28 November 2001: Message edited by: Mishandled ]

28th Nov 2001, 16:42
Give it a rest, Guv, Toli and co. what better environment is there than a professional, well run airline for a new pilot to gain experience. Everyone has to start somewhere and merely having a low number of hours is not a recipe for an air crash. Every 25000hr captain had to pass the 300hr barrier, and the vast majority manage to do it without crashing an aircraft. I believe it is far better to gain your experience under the watchful eye of an experienced captain than to be let lose on a single pilot nighttime freight or airtaxi operation. Yes, you might scare yourself silly, and if you crash you are only going to kill yourself (and maybe a 3 or 4 pax, and maybe a few people on the ground) and if you survive the job, move onto jets after 200 hours or so. It doesn't mean that you have an inate ability to fly a jet, or that you have a full understanding of 2 crew operations. No one knows yet what caused this crash. It may be pilot error, it may be something else. But until the truth is known, stop laying into the crew. As professionals on this website have little respect for the other less fortunate professionals out there, and if you are not a pilot (Guv), then frankly you have no idea what it is like anyway and should retire gracefully from the discussion.

28th Nov 2001, 17:07
Just a few points,
I flew into ZRH the next morning with the same basic wx that they had for landing. I know, because we were coasting out from the US at the time of the crash. We were getting many updates, as I was concerned about the visibility going down. My first trip into ZRH. Milan was great, so I was not concerned for alternates. But I was thinking about what has been discussed on this thread. These incidents are normally combinations of unfortunate situations. That night:
My FO was also low time on aircraft.
I had never been to ZRH.
We had terrain to contend with.
The wx was not good.
Because of all this, I started to brief the approach over Lands End!
We flew the approach to 16, but kept breaking in and out of layers.
Had it been a non-precision, it would have been a teaser to keep with the approach, and not go around.
The approach they flew has a high rate of descent built into it already.
My point being:
That all the variables: wx, low time, airport, crew coordination usually take just one more thing like a short turn onto final, late descent on non-precision or last minute runway change to put the situation over the edge. Two good pilots with one variable too much,in my humble opinion.

METO power
28th Nov 2001, 17:32
76CaptainUSA, just one question.

Milan was great, so I was not concerned for alternates.

Did you really plan to divert to Milan after a missed approach in ZRH with a possible engine failure? :confused:

PPRuNe Towers
28th Nov 2001, 17:36
The question has to be asked why we let such threads continue now and on so many other sad occasions in the past.

The original concept of PPRuNe is as an electronic bar room. If you were in a bar downroute on recent evenings this accident would most likely be a topic of intense debate. On each and every tragic thread at these times there are precious nuggets of pure gold for the thinking professional. The experience of a fine and rational writer such as Captain Peacock in his missive above sums up the reason for allowing these threads and alone makes this one worthwhile.

It doesn't matter if the basic premise of this thread and its title is an utter crock. Its reason for existing is to draw out the thoughts of those like Captain Peacock and Mastergreen and many other veterans. They are rarely driven to write here on PPruNe - it usually is at the time of a significant accident or incident.

These threads provide a great deal for the thinking professional and future professional. From using your critical faculties to filter out noise and nonsense to reviewing your SOPs at similar fields it's all worthwhile especially when it brings out the basic philosophical and operational clarity of someone like those already mentioned.

Many will instinctively wish to counter our thoughts and policy. Well. that's fine by us but please don't bother with the standard respect, decency and wait for the report arguments - they are a given.

Rebut the real reasons for our policy instead:

It makes people think while the events are still fresh in their minds - that is the real opportunity to effectively begin modifying behaviour to enhance safety.

There will be at least one and possibly two winters of flying before any full report is published.

More aviation professionals have already read this thread than will ever read the eventual report. Basic wheat from chaff skills allow the thinking person to derive far more from this thread than any potentially politically and commercially neutered report.

Trainers and Check Airmen can see useful themes to bring into their work now.

Technical, company and ATC issues will be addressed in the future and far, far removed from us on the line. In the meantime some of the thoughts of folks such as 76Captain above are extremely valuable right now for us - the Professional Pilots.

[ 28 November 2001: Message edited by: PPRuNe Towers ]

Mick Stability
28th Nov 2001, 23:00
I'm afraid inexperience is here to stay so long as airlines try to skimp on training costs. I don't criticise new or relatively inexperienced pilots in that remark, they are the future of the business. They play the hand they're dealt. The responsibility lies with us knackered old sh*&s to pass on our experience. We were all there once :(

Kaptein Max
29th Nov 2001, 02:18
Herod - don't you think a 300 hour pilot with the right training and attitude will be a better pilot when he has 1000 hours?

Grease Weasel
29th Nov 2001, 02:19
Capt H Peacock and Pprune Towers:
Two of the finest pieces I have read on this website. I hope everyone is paying attention.
Safe flying everone.

29th Nov 2001, 03:01
My sympathies and condolences to all Crossair crews.

In such a tragic situation people should understand that the investigation board will give us all the details and everybody will take his own considerations.

It is a lack of respect to give suggestions/comments/conclusions, like someone here, when we DO NOT KNOW what's happened.

Pandora, I agree with about Guv: he/she (!) should consider seriously to apply for a Manager's Forum instead of giving controversial and unhappy sentences on this


Fly safe & enjoy life.

Behind the Curtain
29th Nov 2001, 03:49
Absolutely, Grease Weasel.

All I do is sit a few rows behind the likes of Capt H Peacock trying to get that last drink from the trolley, but I have learned a lot from his posting and would gladly have him fly me somewhere. I wish he were tomorrow, but I'm going Ryanair...

It must be worse to hear news like this if you are in the aviation business, though I feel sad too. Perhaps because I have many happy memories of Zurich and of being taken there by the fine people of Swissair and Crossair.

A view from the passenger cabin - I hope I'm not intruding too much here. Back to Passengers and SLF.

[ 28 November 2001: Message edited by: Behind the Curtain ]

Hooking Fell
29th Nov 2001, 04:27
Swiss media report that pilot in control of aircraft on approach has been identified by evaluating the CVR. They are, however, witholding his identity for reasons not explained.

More at http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ta/taOnlineArtikel?ArtId=144757

29th Nov 2001, 04:40
We don't know what happened, sure, but the topic of required experience is important. Any pilot with 300 hours who thinks he's good is dangerous. I'd vote for at least 1000 hours minimum to operate a plane with pax. Old timers can get lazy and complacent, but they generally know what to expect and deal with events as they come. If nothing else, under 1000 hour pilots, even if suitably assertive, need experience to validate their opinions.

29th Nov 2001, 04:50
This tread is starting up the experience issue again – and why not – it is a hairy problem that will never go away.

Low hour FOs are here to stay and they have always been with us. I was one once – so were we all. The real issue is how low is low. I am not going to trot out all the usual suspects in this part of the debate. It has all been well said before. Suffice to put my cards on the table before I start to say that I fly with lots of “young”, low hour FOs and I will be the first to admit that they are good at what they do.

That is not to say that they wouldn’t be better after a few 1000 more hours – but where are they going to get them? The older, traditional routes to the RHS of an airliner are still with us. But who is to say whether a 300 hr FO who has been through a structured and focused course is any better than a 2000 hr FO who has been hacking around as a light aircraft instructor – whatever. There is merit to both sides and it is a very hard call.

In the context of this latest accident the experience card is out. However I would like to turn it over and think about awareness here.

We don’t know yet what happened or what went wrong – but something did. Something happened that was fundamental enough to overwhelm an experienced Captain and a qualified FO. To use the chain analogy, somewhere a link or links failed and the aircraft departed a safe and correct flightpath and hit the ground.

To digress a moment. I was reading the write up of the John Denver accident last week. The sequence and errors there are so obvious in the cold light of hindsight that it almost makes you cry. So many places where that accident could have been stopped. So many mistakes. And I sat there thinking to myself, in a moment of hubris, that I would never have been caught out like that. But then I reflected on my past and thought about all the stupid, foolish things I have got away with in similar circumstances (light aircraft / gliders etc). So what is the difference? Is MG luckier than JD? Certainly, but lucky why? All I can assume is that my errors came one at a time and the absence of compounding factors kept me aloft. BTW I am not assuming errors or foolishness in the accident under discussion – I am just thinking aloud here.

So back to our two crew, 4 engined public transport aircraft on a Non Precision Approach (NPA) that went wrong. As has been correctly said before, there is nothing intrinsically dangerous about the approach. But that is not to say it is easy either. No IFR NPA is easy and in fact they get harder as we do less of them. The ILS and the Magenta Line are both our salvation and our nemesis. On the one hand they keep the workload down and keep us further from harm’s way. But when they are absent, or in error (more of a worry) we have to work that much harder to keep situational awareness and safe.

Without trying to pre-empt what actually happened here, I would like to engage our minds onto some of the issues regarding NPAs. Because you certainly don’t need to be Richard Feynman to figure that it is an area where more than the fair share of problems occur.

As is usual with my little rants I will issue the caveat about Grandmother sucking eggs since there is a wide range of experience reading this. Bear with me if you know more than me – and that will not be hard.

To put everyone on the same page to start, here are a couple of simple, off the wall definitions. (I am making these up as I go. They are in my notebook somewhere – but hopefully these are near enough for the purpose of this exercise.)

A Precision Approach is a pilot or aircraft systems interpreted, ground sourced approach aid that defines both the horizontal and vertical flightpath within precise limits. It will ensure a safe and acceptable glideslope (nominally 3 degrees) and localiser (horizontal guidance) to the aircraft, which if followed, will ensure a safe terrain clearance and stable approach from which a visual or automatic landing may be made. This is known as the Instrument Landing System (ILS) and it comes in various flavours of accuracy and reliability. None of which we need to go into now.

A Non Precision Approach is just that. The principle difference is that there is no formal glideslope guidance. There are also many different ways of obtaining horizontal guidance. It might be a localiser, a VOR radial, an NDB bearing. You may or may not have a final approach fix or direct or indirect distance to run to the threshold available. You may or may not have a clear approach run from initial descent point down to minimums or there may be altitude steps imposed. These steps may be a terrain problem or a political problem due to noise etc. Larger aircraft usually attempt to smooth these steps out by using a continuous descent technique and each company SOP has a slightly different take on the method used. A NPA has, depending upon all the factors above, a much high minimum than a Precision Approach.

The executive summary of the last two paragraphs would be (at the risk of being misunderstood / misquoted) : An ILS is relatively easy and an NPA can be seriously hard work.

And all that said, if you have an NPA ahead then you really do need to study the charts. Some NPAs are well designed and relatively straightforward. Some though are absolute dogs. The charts can be evasive at best and there are traps everywhere. Now add an unfamiliar airport / approach at night with poor cockpit lighting (even my 777 has a 50 year old wander light!!) and a miniscule chart and you really are starting to put the stress in. Now no excuses. A qualified, current instrument rated pilot will cope. However he is working hard. Now back to our chain.

Add to the link analogy and think stress. Stress as in tension, materials. Now, with nothing else to distract, good briefing, good unhurried setup and it will all go fine. Now add a little problem to the soup. Time to play the awareness card. At this point the handling pilot is well into his performance / awareness capacity. The Non Handling should also be well engaged cross monitoring. There is slack available, but maybe not that much. The more experienced the crew the more slack there may be.

Let’s assume something relatively trivial comes up, pick one. Nothing serious or that will affect the coming landing and force a go around anyway. But it is there and demands attention and it must be dealt with. Either by ignoring it or not. If you know your airplane and systems then you know what you can dismiss and ignore at that stage. If you can’t ignore it for whatever reason then you must deal with it. Now we have a problem. There is now a distraction. Let’s assume that the Captain is the handling pilot here. It takes great personal discipline to tell your NHP to deal with a problem and hold your total attention on the main job at hand – which is of course, flying that airplane and that Non Precision Approach. Some drills just will not allow you the luxury of non involvement. And if you are distracted just how much distraction can you afford? How long is this piece of string?

Sitting comfortably in front of our PCs we can all say, with that perfect hindsight that a cold beer brings, “Of course – if it too much of a problem you must go around.” The cemeteries are full of people (and not just from aviation) who overestimated their ability to cope.

What is the answer? I’d be a happy man if I knew. All I can offer up here is how I see it and how I would like to see it.

If you anticipate a NPA in live conditions, and by that I mean anything but Day CAVOK with no terrain problems, DO :

1. Study that Chart
2. Brief carefully. Don’t just drone on and on and read the chart. Brief it. That means get the important and essentials firmly across to your other pilot and rehearse exactly how you intend it to happen. (S)He is going to be your safety rope. Make sure you are both onside.
3. Set it up properly. Check and double check the FMC setup. Remember that canned approach was done by someone else – and they are not in the cockpit.
4. Give yourself plenty of time. Time is your friend and lack of it is definitely a serious stress point. At 2 to 3 miles a minute there is never enough.
5. Think and brief on what you expect to see and where you will see it when you break out. Think lights and runway QDM v Approach course and wind.
6. Look for the traps. This is last, but by far the most important. Think – If it is going to go bad – where will it go bad and how can I ensure that it doesn’t. And if it does – what am I going to do about it.

I am a little bit away from where I started, but it seems obvious where experience fits in here. “If you know what the enemy looks like it is easier to fight”.

Enough already. Hopefully there’s some stuff above to think on and maybe discuss in more detail. This is a topic that will never end until the last aircraft is parked in the desert. We are all at risk from this and but for the grace of God goes any of us. The only defense is knowledge and awareness of the problem.



29th Nov 2001, 05:35
First I want to thank Capt Peacock and PPRuNe Towers for superb postings here - now and again in life one come's across pure nuggets of gold and these are two!

Second, it has just occurred to me, as a non-commercial pilot (y'all know this by now but I need you to realise I am not a professional pilot)!, that there surely should be a categorisation of airports/wx conditions for new pilots. Everyone has to start somewhere but, accepting the vagaries of ATC and accents and busy skies for a moment, if an approach has few natural obstacles/difficulties then surely it is on such approaches that a 200hr RH seat should be flying and building confidence in all wx.. and then after suitable time on type, attempt the trickier approaches wherever they may be ...surely it is a question of building up the coping mechanism so sending a "beginner" commercial pilot into a situation fraught with EVERYTHING difficult including terrain cannot be helpful!!

Or am I totally wrong??!!! :D

29th Nov 2001, 07:00
It's pretty common in the states to require that the Captain make the landing if the F/O has less than 500 hours in type and wx is <3/4 of a mile, as well as a laundry list of restrictions if the F/O has less than 100 hours in type.

Hooking Fell
29th Nov 2001, 11:57
Media reports just out confirm that Captain Lutz was at the controls of LX3597 at time of approach.
Source: http://www.facts.ch/facts/factsArtikel?artikelid=144666&rubrikid=780

29th Nov 2001, 21:00
The above mentioned article (facts.ch) does not speak kindly about Capt Lutz. It described him as a mediocre pilot who had failed twice in his unsuccessful upgrade attempt to the MD80 in 1996.

30th Nov 2001, 03:08
Having trained many very low hours' F/O's in heavy jets (base, sim, line), I would have to say that "most" do quite surprisingly well, and can be relied upon in nearly every situation, emergency or otherwise. It is the training that counts, if it's good, the product is good.
At around 2000 hours or so, a very few then think they "know it all", and can be a real pain. Best left ignored...usually they wise up later on.

Ignition Override
30th Nov 2001, 11:19
Just some notes to contrast with what has already been said numerous times here.

The US military allows (at least years ago) new copilots into line flying with maybe 300 hours total, although a limited number had a bit of civilian experience beforehand. This applied to tactical, single-pilot planes and widebody transports/tankers etc.

Some of our company pilots with 10,000 hours and years as jet captains were/are known to bid around trips which go to mountainous Eagle (KEGE), Colorado. I went there once as FO and can understand the desire to avoid it. There are so many unique procedures required for each arrival and departure there, using the FMC/autopilot (after extending the gear and full flaps abput twenty miles out), that the company requires a requal sim for each 757 crewmember every year for Eagle, in addition to the regular training/checking events. Among our various fleets, only our 757s are allowed in because of very demanding departure second-segment requirements.

Using an aircraft FMC for non-precision approaches in itself can expose us to extra serious hazards. This is why my company focused mostly on non-precision training during the initial full-flight sim approach syllabus. Unless I've forgotten, our pilots on the 757 rarely use the VS descent (versus VNAV/FLCH) mode except during some visual approaches or a rare VOR or LOC, i.e. at SFO.

Don't forget: for laymen, especially for certain species of know-it-all-journalists, even the phrase "non-precision approach" can tempt many to jump to very erroneous conclusions, since most have no knowledge of the subject (among many others which they "report" on, as if knowledgeable). Remember-even many "aviation experts" have almost no instrument flying experience. So many of them in the US have either no pilot license or little total experience, except for rides on cockpit jumpseats or watching in simulators. Some think they know it all, with exactly such backgrounds. One of our pilots (who flew all-night cargo Learjets for years before coming here: he once was on continuous duty for over 30 hours under Parts 135/91) has a father-in-law, who is such an "expert", but is only qualified in the academic sector.

[ 30 November 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]

Few Cloudy
30th Nov 2001, 13:21
Well today (Friday) the preliminary results of the investigation are expected.

30th Nov 2001, 15:18
just wanted to stand in line to thank Capt. Peacock and pprune Towers for their contribution.

As for the "inexperience" of the F/O, let us not forget that the F/O with 300 hours, trying to learn his trade, is there were we were a couple of years ago. We all started at 0 hours, except for the small minority of natural-born ace pilots who seem to soar above us mere mortals...

By the way I happened to come accross some low -hour F/O's who did a better job than some of our old captains...

What is important is not only the hours in the log, but mainly training and attitude ( not only as a pilot but as a human being)

I recommend that anyone having doubts about this read Ernest Gann's " Fate is the hunter".

...Live and Learn...

Norman Stanley Fletcher
30th Nov 2001, 22:21
The truth rarely lies at the extremes of the argument, and we are in danger of taking up entrenched positions. I am now an Airbus FO but was previously a turboprop Training Captain. Like others here have experienced, I found that some 509ers with 250-300 hours were simply outstanding and others with several thousand hours (particularly ex-instructors I have to say and I am one!) were frankly very poor.

I have given a lot of thought to this issue and the conclusion I have come to is that it actually a 'statistical' judgement. It is clearly not true to say that every experienced pilot is better than every inexperienced pilot as we can all verify. This accounts for all the many cases we can site where a 250 hour bloke is way better than a 4000 hour bloke. My own belief however is that, in general terms, a more experienced pilot will do better than a less experienced one in a given situation. There are many exceptions, but statistically you are significantly increasing the likeliehood of a successful outcome to a difficult situation by having experienced crews - particularly those with experience on type. There are clearly other factors that are harder to define - crew personalities and how they 'gelled' on the day being very high up the list along with the technical proficiency of the individual pilots.

I am interested to know other people's view on this as there are clearly many factors involved.

[ 30 November 2001: Message edited by: Norman Stanley Fletcher ]

1st Dec 2001, 02:13
Cusp theory......butterfly wings........everybody's nightmare ?

RIP to those who died and condolences to those that knew them.


1st Dec 2001, 02:21
Norman S.F. I personally agree with your comments.

We are dealing with Human Perfomances and is very difficult to find exact patterns applicable to every pilot, company,......

We are dealing with humans within an unpredictible scenario.

It is impossible to define a rule or a standard profile for the best F/O (or the CPT) suiting all the cases.

We need to develop (or at least try to ...) a "positive attitude" human profile.

Then you define the way you look at a "positive attitude" by the known criterias of professionalism, CRM, pilot technique, systems/automation knowledge, flight experience, hours, type ratings ......

In that way you give a chance to everybody for developing the necessary skills for sitting in the LH/RH seat.

Nevertheless we need to consider the fact that we are not 100% sure the human response will be the same for all the life: different private/external factors may influence the Human Perfomance of the most/less experience pilot.

How we get to a solution?
If we stay "midway" may be we can protect for the extremes cases.

My condolences and sympathies to Crossair crews.

Fly safe & enjoy life

ATC Watcher
1st Dec 2001, 02:41
Excllent article on the link given by Hooking fell . ( thanks!)for those that speak German.
The article says that the Rj was 1000 ft too low and slighly off track. But 1000ft below what ? MSA ?

Willie Everlearn
1st Dec 2001, 03:01
News reports this evening suggest initial CVR reading indicate the crew had just decided to go around.

Tin Kicker
1st Dec 2001, 03:21
There is an interesting article on ATI which confirms the go-around order about one second before the crash & it also says the pilots were expecting r/w 14 not 28.

1st Dec 2001, 13:53
Wouldn't it have been wiser for the Cpt to have the F/O fly the and therefore have more thinking space to monitor the approach ?
I understand that a lot of CFIT happen when the Captain is flying the approach.
Anyway this led us to require a NPA to be flown by the F/O under CAPT supervision when visibility in under 5000 m and at night and I think this is very wise.
Well trained 300 H F/O 's have no trouble flying a difficult NPA, it's only the experience and judgement they lack, nothing wrong with that that; that comes with hours blistering your toush in the saddle. Not by magic. Pretty difficult for a very junior F/O to chip in " Captain Sir, I'm afraid you are stuffing up ". Although it shouldn't be the case. It is a lot easier in my view to have the F/O fly the aircraft, monitor him, and have all the room to see what is going on. The reverse is in my view a waste of skills.

1st Dec 2001, 18:23
Follow the link for a press release by the Accident Investigation Board.

Press release (http://www.bfu.admin.ch/de/html/Presse_LX3597_1e.htm)


1st Dec 2001, 23:32
Anyone in the know with 146 / CX procedures...

Without unnecessary speculation, can anyone point to an SOP / reason / occasion for setting 300' on the Radio Altimeter warner in this case.

Secondly, does the 146 in CX fly NPA to descend and then level at MDA, to then look, or select a VS to fly to hit MDA around MAP (e.g. as per BA 757 SOPs) i.e. with no level portion...


Capt H Peacock
2nd Dec 2001, 01:10
On the face of it this is disturbing. Radio altimeter decision heights are only for AWOPS approaches with minima below 200’ during auto-coupled approaches. They have no place in non-precision approaches at all. In fact the call of ‘MINIMA’ during the non-precision approach could be profoundly disturbing to the mental model of the crew.

On this approach the missed approach point is defined as either KLO 2d, or in its absence an elapsed time from the FAF. That is the last point during the visual segment that the approach may be continued. Your descent to MDA past the last step down fix and (level) flight to the MAP is the only time that you should expect to acquire visual reference. Outside this segment, you are likely to be looking at the wrong thing.

There are two schools as to how these non-precision approaches should be flown, but as I mentioned before I advocate a continuous descent approach with the aim of arriving at MDA at the same point as if the approach had been followed on a standard glidepath. The ‘level segment’ is equally valid but in my opinion compromises a stabilised approach because it requires large power/trim changes at a late stage. It might make you feel more comfortable to have visual contact with the surface, but it won’t do you any favours.

In the same vein, some companies treat the MDA as a decision altitude. This is flawed since obstacle clearance criteria for a precision approach allow for the fact that the aircraft may descend transitionally through decision height during the go-around. No such transient is allowed for a non-precision approach. It is a Minimum Descent Altitude and nothing else.

Of the different philosophies as to who flys what. I have to say that I favour a split approach with the ‘Co-pilot’ operating the aircraft through the profile whilst the ‘Captain’ monitors, supervises and polices the gates of the approach. This also allows him/her to transition to the visual segment in a controlled manner, whilst the ‘Co-pilot’ is preparing him(her)self for the go-around.

Once again, none of this is intended to imply criticism of the crew involved in this tragic event. I seek only to reinforce operational integrity amongst all operators.

2nd Dec 2001, 03:04
Tks again to Capt H.P. for his experienced comments on pilot's techniques.

I agree for the RA setting during NPA.

Normally the companies where I was flying suggested the use of the RA setting during NPA/Visuals to have some sort of "advice" on an instrument approach since no glide information (apart from the PAPI,..).

My condolences for the people involved.

Few Cloudy
2nd Dec 2001, 14:00
The 300ft RA setting on a non-precision or visual approach is an old established Swissair procedure, which may have been used by Crossair too. I do not know.

The call out on a radio altimeter is usually a function of the GPWS programme. Depending on the model, you can have it call "minimum", "decision height" or (and this was the Swissair configuration - what it is in Crossair I don't know) just a rising tone when approaching/reaching the bug.

The reason why Swissair had this procedure, so they said, was because the Radio Altimeter was an expensive and useful tool, which should be utilised where possible. As they always did a "power and rate" check at 300ft height on a non precision or visual approach to check stabilised configuration, the procedure was to use the Radio Altimeter to trigger this check. They then went further and set 150ft Radio Altimeter on any precision approach where no Radio Altimeter minimum was published (remember they printed their own charts - based on measured Radio minima where possible). This 150ft warning was an unnecessary nuisance.

I did not like the way people tended to call out "power and rate OK" when they heard the warning out of habit, even when the bug was set to a proper minimum on a precision approach. It seemed like a negative training habit to me. Couldn't get it changed though.

In Japan, the Radio altimeter was set by some companies to 200feet on a precision approach, with no reference to the surrounding topography, although they are flying to a QNH (altimeter to the state side boys) minimum. The reason for this was never made clear and as Capt Peacock assumes above, could cause confusion when the "minimum" call came, just before or just after the real minimum. Other Japanese companies set Radio Altimeter below zero when not pertinant to the approach. My present company does this too.

In my opinion there should be no use of a Radio Altimeter when the minimum is referenced to QNH, except as a terrain awareness check at say 2,500 feet. Any lower use of the system for terrain awareness during a QNH referenced final should require the voice callouts to be deactivated and tone only to be used.

Once again, this post is a general discussion, with no implied criticism of the approach in question.

2nd Dec 2001, 18:06
Few Cloudy - agree with you that the RA setting should only be made when it is relevant... so I'm afraid to disagree with DGF...

In terrain like ZRH, what on earth use is setting the RA warner, unless you are setting it IAW a surveyed procedure (necessarily for a precision approach since glide information is needed to make Rad Alt info mean anything).

I am not suggesting this is the case here, but to me, anyone who "sets a RA warner to a general setting regardless of terrain / actual minima" is setting themselves in a mind-set that could lead to an accident like this...

I do not know accurately the terrain short of 28, but less us say at 2.2D there was a 1750' hill (300' AAL) - with terrain at 0D (the airfield) and also at 3-4D of 1416'. The RA warner will then promptly state at 3D "300'" just before you hit the rising ground....

Please could anyone justify to me this RA setting procedure? I am mystified about it, and it seems the most basic airmanship mistake to use it, let alone condone it in an airline as a general SOP? This is the sort of myth that Route Checks and Training should completely eliminate!


Few Cloudy
2nd Dec 2001, 21:18

As I wrote above, and I was talking about Swissair, it was used for the trigger for the "power and rate" check. The way this worked is that at 300ft Radio Altitude, the flying pilot (P1) checked that the engines were in the spinup range and the RoD was less than 1,000 ft/minute.

In other words in this case the Radio Altimeter was NOT being used for any kind of minimum information - just as a reminder to perform this check. The Crossair procedure I do not know.

Trouble was, on your next flight the Radio Altimeter could very well be used for minimum information, thus opening the possibility of misinterpretation of the warning.

In cases where Swissair flew to a Radio Altitude minimum (not only cat 111 as Capt Peacock claims) the terrain was actually surveyed and an exact Radio Altitude minimum was calculated and published on the company approach plate and probably still is. If the terrain was too complicated for this, only the QNH minimum was published. (By the way, if you look carefully at some Jeppesen plates, a Radio Altitude minimum can also be published for cat 1 and cat 11 approaches - I believe GVA is one ).

Hope this helps.

2nd Dec 2001, 23:30
The Swiss AAIB initial report gives a 3-D map of the flight (but not terrain contour) which shows an even descent without level-off from 6 DME to the point of impact about 1/2 mile South of the Approach course about 1/3 the distance between 2 and 6 DME = approx. 1.3 miles short of the 2 DME point. The reproduction of the Jepp chart shows the threshold at .9 DME (1.1 miles from 2 DME if I read the pixels correctly); so the impact point is approximately 1.1 + 1.3 = 2.4 miles from the threshold.

The 6 DME point is 5.1 miles from the threshold with a crossing altitude of 964' HAT.

So a constant slope from 6 DME to the threshold (zero screen height) would give the expected HAT at the impact point as
964 x (2.4/5.1) = 444' and a slope of 189' per nm or about 3.2% -- not degrees -- assuming 1 nm = 6000' (too lazy to look it up or do the trig for degrees)

"The first point of impact was on the top of a tree at an altitude of 1784 ft/AMSL"; so 1784 - 1416 Threshold Rwy 28 = 368' HAT.

444 - 368 = 76' seems to me a rather thin terrain clearance if this off-track distance is within the protected area and if the impact altitude turns out to be taken at the base of the tree, the a/c would have been very close to the constant slope. Possibly the approach has been around for a long time and the trees grew into the protected airspace (I don't really believe the approach designers used a constant slope from 6 DME).

A constant slope descent from 6 DME is too shallow and I am unable to make out from the Jepp plate reproduction beyond:
Descent Gradient D0.0 ??????? 5.3%

We have the crew visual at MDA and descending to the airport and I speculate the crew thought itself closer to the airport than they really were until the airport lights disappeared behind the hill.

If the windshield was wet, refraction may have induced the crew to perceive themselves as higher relative to the airport than they really were. Was there a VASI or anything like it?

While the VOR signal was checked and found good, was the signal checked on the path taken by the accident aircraft, especially where the hill shadows the airport (don't try this with a 146)? It might be interesting to see the instrument indications, even given that the VOR would still be line of sight as the threshold LOS was becoming blocked.

The chart shows a descent path below MDA beginning before 2 DME. Is that point noted in the indecipherable pixels? If not, the do not descend below MDA point before ??? DME needs to be there.

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: RatherBeFlying ]

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: RatherBeFlying ]

mens rea
3rd Dec 2001, 00:07
Sorry but are you not supposed to go around if at MAP/MDA you have insufficient visual references. From what I can gather the captain with 20,000 hours decided to do his own thing and flew a perfectly serviceably aircraft into the ground and killed 21 people. Experience.

Condolences to all those relatives and family of those killed - doesn't help that the accident was entirely preventable.

3rd Dec 2001, 00:11
Few Cloudy - <<if you look carefully at some Jeppesen plates, a Radio Altitude minimum can also be published for cat 1 and cat 11 approaches - I believe GVA is one ).>> In BA we often have CAT 1 Radio Minima specified, but not always... presumably where the terrain has been surveyed, and is fairly level....

RatherBeFlying - I'll try and get one of our BA plates tomorrow and do the maths! You have raised some interesting thoughts...

I've only done one VOR/DME 28 into ZRH (in a 757), and it was hard work (especially since 28 was being used due to strong winds, so turbulent), with cloudbase not far from minima. It was made much HARDER work by ZRH ATC who:
1. Insisted we route direct to the ZUE on an easterly heading after radar vectors, so very hard to "pick up" the horizontal profile. In fact, we edged north of this to try and nearly overfly the ZUE to be outbound on the correct radial. This in turn caused a TA on the next traffic coming in from the east... I see from the inquiry diagram, an element of this happened in the accident flight (although not related).
2. Then "demanded" we turn onto the inbound KLO radial prior to reaching the "lead radial" - and we were still IMC! Naturally this was "declined", but we were now into our second argument with ZRH ATC (and what's new you ask...)


3rd Dec 2001, 02:47
Wow, must be interesting to start on a jet at 300 hours. Our company won't even accept a resume with less then 5000 hours. Too many pilots over here I guess.

3rd Dec 2001, 03:35
NigelOnDraft I understand your point about RA setting.

Nevertheless when you join an airline with your past experience and pilot techniques you must follow SOPs.

It is difficult, as other collegue was pointing out, but it is the reality.

I was in such a situation different times: normally I try to use the good sense.

Coming back to the discussion on the RA setting my believe is:

1. RA, theoretically, is to be used with approaches demanding its setting (see previous well explained posts);

2. My company XXX is requiring the RA setting by the pubblished SOPs (DH or 150ft on Prec. App. and 300ft for NPA/visual);

Now the question is: who is right and why?

If you follow #1 you don't follow the SOPs.

If you follow #2 you follow the SOPs but maybe you are apporting items disturbing the crew and the situational awareness.

I think that both have some good and bad aspects: it depends on the approach profile (see terrain orography vs. path), meteo, crew spectations, ...

I will look forward for your comments.

It is important to clarify that this discussion is respecting the crew involved and the only purpose is to provide a constructive discussion.

My condolences and sympathies to the people involved.

3rd Dec 2001, 06:15
I've had IT with this RA discussion!!!

On the generic 727 checklist I've used on many contracts, "Radio Altimiter" is there on the "Approach" check. Even though we are not and never have been (on these contracts) CAT II or III qualified, the unintiated still insist "I'll just set it as a reminder" or some other insane response.

It is not required or AUTHORIZED even as a reminder, and to use it can cause a pilot to bust minimums on a Cat I ILS or Non-Presision Approach.


Not to accuse the crew of this Crossair Flt if that was their procedure, but aren't we meant to learn from out errors?

3rd Dec 2001, 07:36
Yes, but in some cases DownIn3Green, it is the situation of....don't confuse us with facts, our mind is made up. :rolleyes:

Ignition Override
3rd Dec 2001, 09:24
Downin3Green, and others who can't stand the idea of a radar altimeter being set at all (even if not prohibited by my company): this is not to point the finger of blame for any accidents at ATC, but---

Years ago during the approach to NAS Fallon in Nevada, a Navy Reserve (D)C-9 crewmember had his RA set to some setting. Suddenly, while being vectored either at night or in IMC, the light came on with the needle quickly turning. The crew shoved the throttles forward and climbed, without asking questions. It turned out that the Fallon Approach controller had given a certain vector to the wrong aircraft. This was in the Navy's "Approach Magazine". This is also how Frank Sinatra lost his mother along with the rest of the crew in a Learjet in southern CA many years ago.

I.E., if ATC vectors you away from a SID or STAR, how can you always know whether mountains/towers are at or above your altitude and on your present heading? What is wrong with an RA set to 1,500' or 2,000' if your company does not prohibit this? We have no information to tell us the minimum vectoring altitudes while blindly following ATC clearances. We have only a general idea where the highest mountains are at night/IMC. If a pilot or ATC mistake is made, or Salt Lake, Denver or Alb... Center's (or XXX Approach!) radar goes down, who cares what the cockpit RA needle is set to? Does anyone set the RA as procedure into Eagle, Steamboat, Hayden CO etc? A Convair 580 was vectored into a tall tower years ago somewhere around North Dakota, and luckily the wing held together. I rest my case, at least for now.

Going to annual training tomorrow, will ask our IP what he/she thinks. Will check y'alls' responses when back en mi casa.

Hasta la vista.

[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]

3rd Dec 2001, 09:52
Yeah, but the Navy doesn't have GPWS so they made the most of what they had.
The upcomming requirement for EGPWS "should" make these CFIT incidents/accidents mostly a thing of the past, I hope.

3rd Dec 2001, 10:30
Re RA setting comments...

Maybe I could clarify my view! I am not saying that the RA should ONLY be set on an approach with a RA minima. However, I am saying that IF you set it in other circs, it must be very clear exactly what you are expecting to do if it goes off...

The Navy crew, as mentioned, set it, and acted on it. Sort of DIY GPWS as has been suggested.

We in BA have the RA go off at 2500' automatically. This is early enough for most terrain as a decent alert that the numbers (Baro Alt, terrain, position) tie in. 300' is a bit low and late for this sort of check!

What "concerns" me is the attitude of setting it, and not knowing why! It could lead to a mind set of going through minima (after all, someone said here "NPA minima is usually ~300' AAL") and awaiting the RA warner.

Bearing in mind the Baro MDA here was nearly 1000' AAL (2390' v 1416'), I stand by the question of what was the purpose of setting the RA to 300'? And if an SOP, what is the corresponding SOP if it goes off?


3rd Dec 2001, 15:26
Where I earn my daily bread ( and wine) we have introduced a procedure to set the RA at 200' for all CAt1 and NPA approaches.
This because "...studies conducted by the Flight Safety foundation clearly indicate that the radio altimeter may largely contribute in avoiding CFIT ..." ( O.M. pt A)

I have my doubts about this because as said before, the "minima" call might be confusing and I suspect some people do not get the point in the difference between a setting of 200' as a procedure and a RA set as minima...
but, as it is a SOP...

On the other hand we have the concept of "monitored approaches", where below certain WX values, the F/O flies the aircraft while the captain monitors ,takes over and lands if he is satisfied and has visual clues.

Also we are not allowed to fly level at the MDA, we fly a 3° slope and at MDA we go around if we do not have enough visual clues to perform a safe landing...( wedo consider the MAP for turns after G/A ect, of course)

Just to tell you how we do it here in Lux...

3rd Dec 2001, 17:05
I'm going to take a look at the plates and minima later, if I can. However, as has been alluded to earlier:

1. Reqd Visual Refs for a NPA are minimal - for us "1 element of the approach lighting system".
2. Here the MDA was ~1000'AAL = > 3NM from Touchdown.
3. From MDA / MAP there is no "glideslope" guidance, not even a table of Alt v DME.
4. If you are visual (night - with just 1 element of the approach light system) at 3NM, and set up even a slightly high RoD (with no real benchmark), the first you know of the impeding doom is the rising ground obscuring your view of that 1 element of lights you had. Suspect its all over by this stage... Even with a 300' RA warner (very late with RoD on AND rising ground? )

I would be very interested to see the exact layout of the terrain in the last 5NM or so for ZRH 28...

In addition, what are the Vis minima for this approach? With an MDA of ~1000'AAL, surely in the order of 3NM? And what were the minima for ZRH "enforcing" the compulsory 28 approach after 2100Z? I seem to recall the vis in the METAR as 4500m?

Possible airmanship grounds for one briefing in these circs that to go below MDA, one wishes to continuously see the PAPIs (does 28 have them?), and keep a satisfactory number of whites!


[ 03 December 2001: Message edited by: NigelOnDraft ]

Few Cloudy
3rd Dec 2001, 19:25
Nigel, one more time - the 300ft Radio Altimeter setting is NOT for terrain warning or minimum purposes, but for the Power and Rate check which some Swiss airlines do.

It seems that Crossair have their Radio Altimeter programmed to give a "Minimum" call at bug, which I think is a BAD thing when it is not being used for the designed purpose.

PS Newspaper info has the flight south of track on final (steady standoff) and descending early in mid approach. We will see.

RW 28 has a steeper than usual PAPI.

3rd Dec 2001, 21:25

I agree with you in your view, the RA is a valuable tool for that situation.

I will use it when cleared for a visual approach sometimes. For instance setting 1,000' or 1,500' depending on the situation. However, this is not a "minimums" reminder, which if using the RA as such when not authorized can lead to "confusion".

3rd Dec 2001, 23:01
Firstly my sympathies to the crew and passengers in this tragic event.
id just like to add to the balanced views on this incident,that this seems to have the "hallmarks" (crew wise) to the Little Rock crash in June 99!
There i believe the Captain was a veteran of (i believe) some 30 years experience,and the F/O was a newly qualified member of AA flight crew.. i am unaware of his exact length of service!
AA was pilloried at the time in the press for allowing such a situation on the flight deck to exist..ie it was termed as a Major General being crewed with a 2nd Lieutenant and all the problems inherent with such a crew pairing!
I understand AA changed their crewing procedures after this tragic event.(altough im unaware of any NTSB recommendations at this time)
However there must be literally scores of similar crewing scenarios all over the world.
If it is seen as a major problem under any workload situation,then airlines unilaterally will not allieviate the potential problem that may exist!
Perhaps we may see from the eventual report on this accident(or Little Rock) the recommendation that airlines in general adopt a more "balanced crew" when it comes to CRM!?

4th Dec 2001, 01:49

I like your approach of this unfortunate event. Just a couple of things:

Yes, there was a visual reference, on the plate it refers to a papi to be followed when visual.

Because of that, we must assume that the crew was never visual with the runway of it's lights. The crew did however report (actually the captain did) visual with the ground below. The metar shows few clouds at 600' feet. Also the visabillity was reported to be 3500 meters. this is about 2.2 miles...
Another aircraft reported visual before at 2.4 dme.

One thing I don't understand though:

If the Captain was flying the approach and the f/o was monitoring, why was the cpt looking outside? I thought it is normal for pf to stay on the instruments 'till the pnf calls visual. Maybe this was a contributing factor in the accident as the Captain might have tried to keep visual reference with the ground.

Ofcourse no judgement here, I'm just trying to understand and learn like everyone else.

Dagger Dirk
5th Dec 2001, 01:31
While icing cannot be ruled out (and is never likely to be proven/disproven as a factor), an unanticipated stall is less likely to have been the main cause. It is far more likely that the captain "chucked away" the instrument approach based upon fleeting ground contact in the turn onto the finals course - and decided to press on visually. You could uncharitably say that they perhaps threw CRM, airmanship and SOP's out the same window through which they caught an enticing glimpse of ground - during the finals turn.... but I won't.

At night "going visual" early is always fraught because there is a dearth of info to stop you going low. That's why it is invariably safer to fly that approach to the point where the runway environment is in crystal-clear view. But the fact that they were probably loaded with ice could have given them a much higher rate of descent for the SOP attitude and power set, particularly with the heavy bleed air load sucking thrust - and it's obvious that they were not playing it safe by maintaining the minimum descent altitude of 2390ft anyway. The combination of icing and the lack of true visual cues was likely to have been the lethal cocktail. To put it another way, when your aerodynamics get mussed up by rain-ice and you're carrying a much greater load (of ice) but are blissfully unaware of it, your flight-path is likely to be a whole lot more downish-vectored than would otherwise be the case. Airplanes don't always go where they're pointed!!! And if you're not flying the clocks, you won't necessarily notice that high sink-rate. Why should you? It can be very subtle. I think that's possibly what caught them out.

The captain should not have been looking out, it is always the PNF's duty to declare visual, runway in sight - and that shouldn't happen turning a seven mile final in those conditions. The hazard is that any such declaration is usually the straight precursor to continuing visually (and implies that the PF has all the visual cues that he needs and that a missed approach is not now on the cards). Maybe they don't load up the simulator's performance with rain-ice and demonstrate what a lead-sled an aircraft can suddenly become. Think of it as the FW equivalent of settling with power/vortex ring. There you are pointed at the runway, which may well have been "visual", but you are wholly unaware (until the RADALT cooks off with a sudden unexpected warning) that somebody pressed the down button on your elevator (i.e. the power and attitude you'd habitually set was actually appropriate for a much lighter and cleaner airplane than your flying ice-cube).
At 21:04 hours UTC an aircraft immediately preceding CRX 3597 passed weather information to Aerodrome Control. The pilot stated that the runway became visual at about 2.2 NM DME distance.

At 21:05 hours UTC, CRX 3597 reported to ATC that they were established on the VOR/DME runway 28. Shortly after, the crew completed their final checks in preparation for landing.

As the aircraft approached the minimum descent altitude, the captain commented on this and stated that he had some ground contact. A short time later, the 500 foot mechanical voice announcement activated. At 21:06 hours UTC, the radar altimeter "minimum" call activated. Just after, ATC cleared flight CRX 3597 to land. At the end of the transmission, the CMR called for a go-around and a cavalry charge indicated the autopilot disconnect. Then the F/O also declared go around. One second later the CVR began to record a sound of impact. A short time later the recording of the CVR ends.

When you re-read this excerpt above, in the context of my lead-sled/ice-block scenario, two things come to mind:

a. It fits the bill (both in sequence/ timing and in them being apparently caught totally unawares by that unexpectedly high sink-rate). The DFDR's rate of descent analysed against that to be normally expected from their configuration, power and attitude should be quite definitive in this regard - and permit conclusions to be drawn.

b. If the aircraft ahead of them genuinely became visual at only 2.2DME (1.3 nm from the threshold) it should legally have been still at 2390ft on QNH [i.e. 974ft above field elevation (HAA)]. They would then have required about 1700ft/min rate of descent to make a 50ft TCH (threshold crossing height). That's a real plummet.

In the prevailing weather, with two octa's at around 2000ft QNH (and the main base about 900ft higher), they would have been in and out of cloud at MDA (and would still have been "in and out" at up to 400ft below MDA).
The reason why they suddenly decided upon a go-round could have solely been that 300ft preset RADALT warning - but it could also have been that they suddenly dropped below the base of the scud and saw what a flat trajectory they had to the runway lights and PAPI. They hit the trees at 1784ft on QNH and that was 606ft below their MDA (yet still 368ft above airfield elevation. It would have looked (quite suddenly, as they dropped below that scattered/broken cloud-base) to be an alarmingly shallow approach. And that's the trap for those who think that they can sight-see their way in at night through the murk.

9th Dec 2001, 19:07
let me get this right: most of the poms and half of the yanks think that the radar altimeter is your enemy and should only be permitted to operate on some(but not all) ILS approaches. OK, you're entitled to your thoughts but please stay over there and try not to over-influence all of the visiting ozmates.

flight safety foundation (in concert with the FAA and other reputable bodies) has done a lot of work on CFIT. they ran an ALAR (approach and landing accident reduction) task force which recommended (#6) the use of rad alt on all approaches as a protection device.

clearly you experts have forgotten what it is like to operate dumb aeroplanes (mind you the rj is semi-imtellegent) and what it takes to get things organised in npas. i don't know why swissair/crossair requires 150/300ft on the radalt, but i know why it is often done here. basically you fly the airplane to a minima which you brief and remember/set dumb bug, having beeen warned by your partner when you are 100ft above it. at that minima, if not visual, you either decide to go round or in the case of an npa you may decide to continue level to the map looking at your circling options. important to note that, in those circumstances, the radalt "minima" call should never activate. our sop sez: "if the radalt minima call or light activates, you must immediately commence a go round unless you are visual."

why 150/300? for us, the ils minima are not less than 200ft (a 50ft buffer) and the minimum terrain clearance for npas and cicrcling is 400ft (a 100ft buffer).

for the ******s who reckon the noise/light is a distraction, step out side your tiny squares and think of it as a startling warning that is your only gpws mode left when in the landing configuration. and for the others who calculate np approach profiles based on low steps, we calculate a 300ft (or more if required) per mile profile to arrive over the threshold at 50ft, which means that the "distraction" should only activate at 1.2 miles from touchdown, at which point you wanna be stabilised on an acceptable flightpath or you are outta there RFN.

now, just in case some of you missed working out how disagreeable i am, let me be blunt: the radalt is a highly desirable part of every instrument approach. seems a lot of you need to spend a bit less time on pprune and a bit more time catching up with professional aviation things like CFIT/ALAR programs.

:mad: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad:

[ 09 December 2001: Message edited by: scrubba ]

Few Cloudy
9th Dec 2001, 22:12
Night time noise restriction over Black Forest area requires 28 to be used. The ATIS can be misleading as it only changes 20 minutes after the hour and the RW changes on the hour.

10th Dec 2001, 16:29

there is an earlier thread where this has been discussed. the use of rwy28 for noise abatement has been introduced after a very long quarrel between Swiss and German authorities/public, and refers to German territory.

11th Dec 2001, 01:48

You are spot on. You set the dumb bug on the alt, and at that point you go round, BUT IF THE RAD ALT TALKS TO YOU SOONER YOU GET OUT OF THERE. For some to suggest that you might be inclined, if you set the radalt, to wait for the radalt to signal and ignore the altimeter, is plain stupid.

The radalt is a very very handy, last ditch, survival tool.

11th Dec 2001, 02:48
It is not the experiece that matter. That only thing that matters is: "Are you qualified to do the job?".

I'll prefer to fly with somebody who has "only" 200h flying at an European Flight School. Thene some American who has 1500h "instructor" time, where he's European student does all the flying for him.

Hooking Fell
11th Dec 2001, 08:00
It appears Capt. Lutz, who was in control of LX3597 during the CFIT has been seriously disoriented on at least one previous occasion.

On 21 March 1999 he aborted an approach into LIMW upon discovering that this was not LSGS where he was supposed to land. Weather was clear on that day.

More details at http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/ta/taOnlineArtikel?ArtId=147998

[ 11 December 2001: Message edited by: Hooking Fell ]

Ignition Override
11th Dec 2001, 09:39
Interesting points. An unfortunate MD-80 crew was attempting a VOR approach a few years ago in night/IMC into Windsor Locks, CT (Bradley, near Hartford), and they had an old altimeter setting (the ATC tower had been evacuated due to very strong winds). They dragged at least one engine through tree branches on a small hill and barely made it to the runway. The FAA wisely decided to redesign the minima for that VOR 15 approach, due to the one hill on the final approach segment.

During a LOC or BC LOC approach, we push the GPWS light when it alerts us with "glideslope". In this situation we have no back-up for the barometric altimeter, unless someone sets the radar altimeter as a "technique".

If we land with flaps 25 instead of flaps 40 (i.e. tail de-ice inop, single engine etc), we override the GPWS. Potential trouble if no glideslope is available, or tower forgot or was unable to switch it over for your final approach.

Last night we landed in Billings, Montana, which has some low hills. I used the RA anyway as technique (set at 2,000') and told the FO during the descent checklist. Today the only problem was using manual pressurization (not electric) due to the auto having failed (no luck with cb's). Luckily, the FO had done it before (was recently 747 SO) and volunteered to operate it, thus I decided not to return.

[ 11 December 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]

Ignition Override
11th Dec 2001, 09:45
Just a question on flying non-precisions: other than a requirement to use an autopilot and VS mode etc on FMC planes (i.e. B-757), do you pilots on older planes hand-fly such approaches or use the autopilot knobs and wheels until the MDA?

11th Dec 2001, 11:16
Hand fly, nearly all the time. Not difficult, provided you keep in practice. The problem is, espcially in heavy jets, the NPA is not used all that much.
When line training F/O's, always have them hand fly, and nearly all do quite well.

Few Cloudy
11th Dec 2001, 12:51
Scrubba and Jumb o lino,

Radio Altimeter as a back up warning - there are good and bad things about this:

Good things -

You get a warning somewhere, in case you have misflown the descent.

Bad things -

If the RA is set to a low height it may be too late to react to as, as has been pointed out by Nigel on Draft, the terrain may be in an upslope at this point and if you have made the mistake of descending at the wrong point you may also have a high ROD, depending on your level of disorientation,

The RA callout or warning depends on mod. state of the GPWS and can give a call of Minimum (as seems to have been the case on the Crossair crash) when of course it is not really minimum. Hearing ( and if visual, flying through )this Minimum call as a routine and not making any appropriate cockpit callout, leads to people not taking the Minimum call seriously on an ILS approach - I've seen it happen.

So what is a reasonable conclusion? If the RA is to be used as a backup of terrain awareness it should be high enough - say 2500ft and it should not call the word Minimum. There should also be a standard cockpit call out (Mr Boeing recommends "Twenty five Hundred")to verify that the crew is correctly interpreting the warning or indication.

Sure it is a useful tool but it needs modification of the sound and integrating into the crew procedure to prevent a negative interpretation.

Capt H Peacock
11th Dec 2001, 14:48
Clearly, it seems that many of you like to use the RAD ALT during the approach, and if that’s what grabs you then fine. But I would strongly suggest that during your briefing you clearly state what radio height you intend to set it to, what it means, and what action you intend to take if your chosen parameter is busted. For me, it is still a distraction, and doesn’t add anything useful to the primary aim, which is to accurately and safely fly the intended non-precision approach.

As for being forced into an unfamiliar approach onto an unbriefed runway, then to hell with the tree-huggers and bunny-shaggers, you’re in charge. Tell ATC what you want. If you don’t like the weather for a particular promulgated approach, then do your preferred approach and tell ATC what you require of them. In this case I would have been quite prepared to justify my actions afterwards to anyone. The reason is SAFETY FIRST. This particular skipper would have had every justification in the world to use the ILS 14, particularly since the previous aircraft suggested that the weather was on minimums.

Remember, you’re in charge.

11th Dec 2001, 16:48
Another good post from Capt Peacock.
I am still waiting for the day when I hear a pilot refuse a late runway change.An unbriefed approach(and departure for that matter) is asking for trouble.Of course,we all like to please ATC and we should be flexible up to a point.The crash of the AA 757 in Cali is a very good example of what can happen when a last minute runway change is accepted.It is perfectly correct for any pilot to say "Negative.Request vectors for holding at the IAF.Will advise when ready for approach."

backfire 1234
11th Dec 2001, 17:30
We all need to be aware that at any given moment in the flight phase, good judgement is required. If it looks and smells bad, it must be bad. Get out of the situation.

11th Dec 2001, 17:34
Who's in Charge?
Quite right. Just locked on to 25r at munich at about 7 miles & told to side step to 25l due our parking posn. NAH! carried on to land 25r and said so as wx O/600' No problem from ATC when we said we would continue for 25r.
ATC are there for you and are a great bunch of guys. Guess if the crew had requested rwy 14 they would have got it no problem.
I have never met anybody who has any authority argue over safety with a Captain. (Note with authority not pen pushers)

Lets slow down and keep it safe "guys"

There but for the grace of God go I.

12th Dec 2001, 01:22

the problem is, isn´t it, that nothing seemed to smell bad in this case - at least not until one second before the crash.

12th Dec 2001, 01:51
ATC is there for the airplanes and not the airplanes for ATC.

If you think, you can not comply, just say so, they will figure out a new way to get you safe on the ground. And if you have a few bytes left, you can always come with a sugestistion.


12th Dec 2001, 06:50
Good sense and posting in this topic.

When you declare something (directly and/or indirectly) on ATC frequency they know very well that if something happen they will be "part of the loop".

Normally everywhere in EU ATC is responding positively when we ask for help or attention.

As other have said safety first and remember, we are on a "flying table".


Fly safe & enjoy life.

Few Cloudy
12th Dec 2001, 14:24
While we are all here, the ZRH ATC (TWR) make a great point that it is not their responsibility to monitor Alt readout on the squawk (although technically possible on the Tower radar.)

The Alitalia crash on App RW14 could have been prevented if the Alt readout had been monitored by the tower, too. And indeed it is my understanding that the tower controller prevented a possible CFIT accident at ZRH on at least one other previous occasion.

In order to do this some changes would be needed:

1) the terms of reference for the ATC contoller would have to include this work,

2) at times of medium/peak traffic, where the controller just doesn't have the capacity to monitor the Alt readout, additional personnel would probably be required,

3) some standard fixed point(s) would have to be established for the crosscheck to be made.

This post is not to imply that ATC should have spotted the mistake(s) - at present it really isn't their job. Maybe it should be though... A car passenger watched me drive through a red light last week - my stupid mistake but he could have saved the day.

Ignition Override
13th Dec 2001, 09:40
411A: Good idea to practice at real airports what we mostly just do in the simulator. At smaller airports we must plan ahead with ATC in order to be on speed in the landing configuration by the FAF, without causing problems for fast traffic behind us. It sure helps if we can switch to tower a few miles from the FAF, not to mention with timing, tail de-ice requirements etc. One of our FOs practiced an NDB approach in clear weather once at Edmonton, Canada (YEG), in order to warm-up for his annual sim. training.

Capt Peacock: Excellent reminders, so that we don't blindly follow ATC clearances or sudden runway changes.

Pardon my wandering here from the specifics of the Crossair tragedy. Guys (male pilots) often have a psychological need to show that we can handle any changes without arguement. We are typically "mission-oriented", to show that we can meet challenges. That can lead us into trouble sometimes, because others are always watching us and listening, sometimes much younger pilots, whether as FO or on the jumpseat. Is this not true?

Is the situation more potentially dangerous for guys whenever the other pilot is a lady, especially an attractive, younger type? Or do we find it easier to slow down and be more questioning in the perfumed presence of female pilots, finding it easier to stay well within our "comfort level"? In my opinion, they look better, sound better and smell better. I'm not kidding here. Just how do these factors affect safety in our cockpits?

Do Air Traffic Controllers have any idea how much planning we do for an ILS OR any non-prec. approach in the weather? Some seem to be in need of enlightenment: more frequent rides on the jumpseat would really help.

These questions might be too subjective for many pilots, but what do you all think about these human factors?

[ 13 December 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]

[ 13 December 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]

The Actuator
13th Dec 2001, 12:41
If it's in the airplane brief it and use it. If a light comes on and confuses you, you don't know the system and you should try and put as much speed and air between you and the ground 'till you do

13th Dec 2001, 14:28
Once again is staggers me how people keep dying because this business is so overpriced and under-developed.

For these types of approaches you already have distance and height plus you have track/deviation. The cost of producing and instrument that converts this into an 'ils' display is so trivial as to be laughable.

But not in the airline business.

14th Dec 2001, 02:16
Again condolences for the victims.

Being constructive and realistic:

Re: ATC radar alt readouts.
How many times did you get a TCAS alert?
Do you take actions or don't care since it is ATC duty to keep a/c separated?

Re: enviroment.
Do you think the million pax travelling to the sunny beaches really care about noise?

I would like to see more interst on safety issues from the pubblic opinion rather than looking only to pilots for their salaries and mistakes.


Fly safe & enjoy life.

15th Dec 2001, 03:07
capn peacock,

But I would strongly suggest that during your briefing you clearly state what radio height you intend to set it to, what it means, and what action you intend to take if your chosen parameter is busted.

i guess i wasn't clear enough - for us it is an sop. there is only one setting for an ils and only one for an npa. what it means is survival and what you do when it activates is also sop.

it is not a crew prerogative for us and it works