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Marrakech (RAK) airport: accident waiting to happen!

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Marrakech (RAK) airport: accident waiting to happen!

Old 14th Aug 2007, 09:54
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Marrakech (RAK) airport: accident waiting to happen!

In my own personal opinion, Marrakech is by far the most dangerous destination in our network.

1. Most of the time they use opposite RWY’s for landing and takeoff (10 for landing and 28 for takeoff)
2. No published app for rwy 28, not even circling minima, so just visual app available for 28
3. No published SID’s or STAR’s
4. ATC is done in (poor) English and French at the same time.
5. No radar available
6. Presence of small, slow military training a/c flying with transponder switched off
7. ATCO’s with very questionable capabilities and situational awareness
8. Apparent lack of coordination between different controllers

To illustrate this, let me tell what recently happened to me flying there:

I approached MAK vor from the North in clear CAVOK weather. The ATIS announced rwy 28 center (sic) (they only have one rwy) as active with wind at 280/4.
I was told by APP that we were nr 2 for landing with nr 1 ten miles ahead of us. As usual the APP was unwilling or unable to clearly state which rwy we would be getting. ( experience in RAK learns that information provided in their recently installed ATIS means nothing!)
When we were in the MAK hold at FL 70 turning inbound to the VOR, we were told by APP to descent to alt 3200’ and to contact TWR. In our readback we requested once more which RWY we would be getting and got a reply that we would be told by TWR.
As we saw that the nr 1 was on left base for rwy 28, to avoid further delay, we contacted the TWR with the message: "Marrakech Tower, bonjour, charter 123, turning inbound to the VOR, leaving FL70, descending 3200 ft, requesting visual approach rwy 28."
(MAK VOR is located on the centreline a few miles before rwy 10, so when turning inbound to the vor, you are on final course for rwy 10)
TWR’s reply was: “charter 123, cleared for visual approach 28, report left downwind 28”
So there I was, happily descending to 3000’ (=circuit altitude, 1500’ AGL) descending through 4500’ when joining left downwind. At that time I heard someone call TWR (in French): “TWR, callsign, at what alt is the Airbus that just flew right over me?” TWR: “he’s at 3200’. A/C (French): “ strange, because he just flew over me”
I can tell you we immediately felt very uncomfortable in our cockpit and doubled the sharp lookout we were already doing. As it was clear that the danger was behind us we continued the circuit an landed on 28 without further event.

During taxi I asked TWR for the position of the traffic that reported seeing us. It turned out it was light mil. a/c orbiting at 4000’ at the beginning of left downwind for 28. When I repeated the instruction that had been given to me by himself and by APP, he stuttered that in that case I should have been at 3200’ when starting downwind.

I told him that was wrong since no such instruction was ever issued. I complained about the presence of the a/c at that location while I was cleared for the visual, and the fact that, whatever my altitude was, at least such traffic should have been called out to me.

I never saw the other traffic, nor did I have something on the TCAS display, but with hindsight I think we came very close to a mid air collision.

Most of my colleagues share my opinion about RAK and can tell similar stories about this airport.

I can assure you that I am extremely careful when I fly to Marrakech and advise everybody to be the same when going there!

Safe landings,
Sabenaboy

Last edited by sabenaboy; 13th Apr 2012 at 06:26.
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 10:46
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Sabenaboy, I couldn't agree more. RAK is one place I really don't look forward to going to, and always make sure I take plenty of extra fuel. I think I've flown the straightforward approach to 10 once. Every other time I've been in there its been a nightmare, between the confusing and unclear ATC, to the lack of circling minima and as you say the departures and arrivals on opposite runways.

PW
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 14:21
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Danger Accidents-Mid East, Morocco etc

I for one will not be flying to these destinations as we enter the Holy Month of Ramaddan where sleeping and poor functioning ATC will be the norm for the 28 day period as they recover from a 3am breakfast followed by enforced daytime starvation.
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 14:39
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Oh dear, more of how it could be better elsewhere, not up to our standard, etc.

New guys, again, just finding out that it ain't like it should/could be, ATC-wise, in many parts of the 'undeveloped' world.

Of course, it can't happen at home, no siree it can't...but it does.
Just one example...
Holding at LOGAN a few years ago, inbound to LHR, the ATIS clearly states 10km visibility, no clouds, no delay.
No, of course not, until I ask the Flight Engineer to check what is happening on the LHR ground frequency...imagine our surprise when LVP are starting and ground is having problems seeing aircraft on the ramp.

Off to LGW we go, just ahead of the rush that followed, and when on apprach to LGW, the LHR ATIS is still at 10k, with the surface vis/RVR at 800 meters, and sinking fast.

New guys just have to realise that some are not quite as perfect as those at 'home'.
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 15:12
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Sabenaboy, a reply from someone who flies very regularly from RAK,

1. RWY 10 gives with with 35° C and 9 kts headwind still a lower RTOW compared to RWY 28, the controllers are aware of this and follow the request of pilots for the opposite take-off whenever possible. Since RWY 10 is the only instrument RWY, pilots prefer this one for landing.
2. Royal Air Maroc has a NDB 28 approach supplied by Jeppesen. No, other companies do not have this and there is also no AIP NDB approach for RWY 28.
3. Correct, the departure for 28 required to climb to MAK before turning north or southwest. There are Danger Areas very close to the airport, North West GMD-16 and North East GMD-17, both just leaving a corridor to the north, another one just north of the airport GMD-5. East and South you have GMD-18 and GMD-19. A lot of coordination with military offices are in progress to get SIDs and STARs established.
4. English is not their first language but, like in Spain, Italy or France, the language they use is an ICAO language and a complaint needs to be addressed at a different level. Their English is better than in most holiday resort airports I fly or flew to recently.
5. Yes, for cicvil traffic there is no radar, like in many places in Europe with even more traffic.
6. Correct, like the much slower VFR training traffic at some of the European places I have to operate to.
7. ATCOs are all military staff, most of them trained in Europe.....
8. There are maximum 3 stations involved, Casablanca on 126.7 and they are only handing you over once RAK has received all details, from RAK there is a handover to Casablanca at a specified level and track / heading, like in other non-radar places.
Within RAK there is the approach and the tower, mostly approach and tower are operated at the same time on one frequency by the same person.

I do not want to defend RAK, I had my own surprising moments there. The airport elevation is 1536 ft, circling at 3000 will not give you the 1500 ft you claim. About 3 NM south of the airport, your downwind leg, is the border of the GMD-18, from GND-FL90, if the military trainer was in his assigned airspace holding to allow for your approach, there may have been a close approach between you both. Just to show how close this is, the go-around for RWY10 "scratches" about 1/2 mile into this GMD-18, even drawn like this in the AIP.
Yes, there is a lot of room for improvement, looking at the whole picture leads far away from the controllers at RAK, it is the system and the certified uncontrolled traffic in and out of places like RAK.

Reduce speed, fly at reasonable circling speed, try to follow all published heights, watch all the restrictions around these airports, the only way to survive, ahhh and tell your company that a quick turnaround is simply not possible as the approach into RAK may take 15-20 minutes because I will have to depart from RWY28.....
 
Old 14th Aug 2007, 16:20
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Well, Nightrider, why in this case ATCOs in Juba, Sudan are much more professional and quite fluent in English, despite their really awful life conditions? They also do all they have to do according to ICAO, but they do it quite acceptably. So, for me it doesn't matter indeed, I think you just must be a professional, otherwise you will always be one of those "stupid idiots" who creates lots of troubles for other "sky users". Isn't it?

Ahh, yeah I've forgotten to say: English isn't my first language, as well. But we do understand each other, don't we?
P.S. This thread may last for years, as there are hundreds of airfields similar to Marrakech/Multan/East Timor etc....
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 16:39
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I'm sorry guys but I flew in there today, and I'm a guy with a broad view on things, but RAK is an accident waiting to happen...

I for one, think that we as pilot's should be more assertive when flying into RAK. I learned my lesson today after going around after the most ****ty approach control service I received in my live.

It's not my intention to disrespect the people of marrocco, but if things ain't right they just aint righ't. Things need to be adressed there urgently

Keep your eyes open guys an gals let's not bump into each other
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 19:52
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JAR OPS requires you to audit the airport before you go. The Chief Pilot should sign off the audit, and the relevant operational procedures, flight deck briefings and your training plan before you start a route to a difficult airport.

Some airlines have whole departments that carry out surveys before they go. Some contract out the surveys to specialist companies.

If this is not done, why not ask the union representative to bring this up with the management at the next meeting? I have done surveys where the results ended up with Flight Operations telling Commercial to drop the route request.
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 22:46
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Unbelievable talking about this as if it is some idiot at the office no-one likes. Who is trusted to make safe decisions to COMPLETELY avoid such hazards as identified here ? UR!

I see no evidence yet of a consensus anytime soon about what to do next.

ATPLs for goodness sakes not flying clubbers. This isn't warning each other about some difficult MATZ/DA/RA in the local airspace near your club.

411, surprised at your head-banging derision about new guys who expect better. I am sure you agree that old guys who've routinely accepted second best on and off for years counselling young guys to do the same, but somehow to be extra careful are not exactly CRM role models for the future, so what exactly are these pilots to do?

Who will stop going there first?

Not a union matter at all.

If as reported here, then this is a currently dangerous pilot operational matter. Like bald eagle says that means U decide! Don't just keep going there hoping it will improve.
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Old 14th Aug 2007, 23:23
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Be aware the burgers

If the Chief Pilot signed the audit you are ethically and duty bound to raise your issues with him [gender neutral] before your next rotation to Marrakech. Lovely city though. Love the place.
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 07:53
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Had my share of white hairs there too!

We where approaching RWY 10 when we heared and saw this 737 taking off from RWY 28, did a go-around for a visual 28, and after landing when arguing with the controllers it was quite obvious that they had completely lost control awareness...

Be very very cautious there, even if you speak both english and french as they do not use standard phraseology at all and are sure that they are doing all right...
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 10:20
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Bandit country... all in a days work for us corporate guys. Like anywhere else be cautious, take no crap from ATC and be in charge of your aircraft.Cant really see what the problem is, you are all pros and maybe having been wrapped in cotton wool in the euro area has made you all forget basic airmanship.

My favorites in RAK are when the local airlines try to cut in front of us (me?.. take up the hold whilst an airliner 10nm behind gets priority.. and when the airport shuts down operations whilst the King arrives/departs (felt bad for surprised LR45 crew that came in and was told 5 min out to go elsewhere with NO explanation).
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 10:30
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Reply @411A (#5) and @Nightrider(#6)

1. The main reason that everybody prefers rwy 28 for T.O., pilots and ATC included, is that there’s no parallel taxiway leading to the holding point of rwy 28. Using 28 means you have to backtrack the whole rwy which gives an unacceptable rwy occupation time with the traffic at RAK getting busier every season. Marrakech urgently needs a parallel taxiway!
2. What’s so difficult about publishing circling minima’s?? I wonder how first-timers coming to RAK at night fly a visual approach to 28? People flying there regularly know there is no terrain or obstacles within the first few miles south and south-east of the airport, but there’s no way you can be sure of that by looking at the charts with the high MSA’s and no circling minima.
3. Even more complicating factors for RAK! Anyway, if I get cleared for a visual app. I still expect to get separation from other traffic! (Unless it’s called out to me and I acknowledge visual contact of course)
4. True, RAK ATCO’s are not worse then other ATCO’s in other holiday destinations like Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey or Agadir. The problem is that they SHOULD be better, because of all the other structural problems that have a negative impact on safety.
5. Does that mean that they have secondary radar for military traffic? If so, go kick their buts and make them use it for the civilians as well with some competent controllers behind the scope!
6. Yes, correct, but in places like Sharm or Hurghada e.g. you don’t have them.
7. see 4
8. APP and TWR on one freq? Yep, most of the time, but not when I had my close call! Two people and two freq’s that day and they were not communicating!

Here’s what I think RAK needs urgently to improve safety dramatically:
A parallel taxiway, SIDs and STARs keeping arriving and departing traffic apart, RADAR with reasonably good ATCOs, and an approach (or at least circling minima) for the 28.

One more anecdote about RAK: last year a controller reported the ceiling as broken at 100 ft. While Casablanca volmet reported the same metar as BKN at one-zero-thousand. Even when I asked directly if he didn’t mean to say it was at 10000’ he kept insisting it was BKN at 100 ft, while we could see the airport clearly when below the cover at FL 100. They probably learned him that in Europe, did they?

Oh, by the way, ask the RAk'is to remove their ridiculous requirement to make a 180° at the end of rwy 28 only. Some controllers make you respect that rule and some let you turn on the rwy itself, reducing the rwy occupation time by valuable minutes.

Happy landings,
Sabenaboy
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 10:54
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Had an aircraft based there for almost two years and I actually considered moving there myself for a while to avoid the commuting....
Regular twice weekly OPS without too many serious problems, if I remember correctly, and I suppose that helped when faced with some of the problems and ( if I can spell it ) idiosyncracies which you have to put up with once you leave European airspace in anything less than a 737-size aircraft....
Let's just say standards of ATC and local airmanship in RAK should be and could be better but is still cartloads better than the majority of the neighbouring countries to the South and East....
Did any of you guys try ever try to earn a living up and down the West African Coast ? Then you'd be happy for rosters that include RAK.....
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 11:43
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Comparing the bad with the worse doesn´t make the bad better.

It´s always worse somewhere else. Pointing that out does not help a lot, really.

sabenaboy made a good point here, and raised awareness concerning RAK. Why trying to play his arguments down?
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 11:49
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Oh, by the way, ask the RAk'is to remove their ridiculous requirement to make a 180° at the end of rwy 28 only.
Well, as the poster has eleven years in commercial jets, perhaps a broader knowledge would be expected regarding the required use of turning bays by many airport authorities.

I sometimes wonder if many rather basic subjects have been left out of the training many of these new(er) pilots receive, instead of how to learn how to push the buttons on the FMC in twelve seconds flat, thereby achieving GIGO.
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 12:05
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HOPPER
Sorry if my post has been written in a way that causes a misunderstanding....
I'm not trying to defend RAK - I did say that standards there should and could be better....
All that I was trying to say is that once out of European Airspace you have to expect that standards are worse and that you have to be prepared for the environment that you know you're going to find - whether you are a first-timer or a regular....
Unfortunately I was a regular but never once did I forget that unless you are giving 110% here, then it all becomes a lot harder....
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 13:18
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Where-O-Where is ICAO when you need them?
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 14:06
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Where-O-Where is ICAO when you need them?
Maybe if we use their language and post GMMX here too then brains will engage.

Meantime those at the sharp end need to decide on the record before they fly, please.
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Old 15th Aug 2007, 21:32
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Have had my share of surprises in RAK as well... and also in AGA... you know it and are ready for it... anything can happen
Still I like to operate to these kind of destinations (we could add many an Italian, Spanish, Greek etc airport, could we not) as it gives one the opportunity to exercise the so praised airmanship. It is interesting, it is challenging and rewarding.
Or do you guys really prefer the CDA ILS vectored standard taxi routes program


live 2 fly 2 live
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