A pilot operating a 220-passenger Jetstar flight had to abort its landing after forgetting to lower the the landing gear just 120m above the ground in Singapore, after the captain became distracted by text messages arriving on his mobile phone, an investigation has found.
A report by The Australian Transport Safety Bureau on the 27 May 2010 incident on A380 Flight JQ57 from Darwin to Singapore said the captain – who had more than 13,000 hours’ flying experience – lost concentration at an altitude of around 2000-2500 feet when his phone sounded a message tone.
The ‘probably fatigued’ co-pilot – with more than 4000 hours experience – looked over and saw the captain “preoccupied with his mobile phone”, investigators said.
The captain told investigators he was trying to unlock the phone to turn it off, after having forgotten to do so before take-off; the captain had not respond to two previous requests from his co-pilot to do so.
At 1000 feet, the co-pilot scanned the instruments and felt “something was not quite right” but could not spot what it was. At this point the captain did not realise the landing gear had not been lowered, and neither pilot went through their landing checklist.
At 720 feet, a warning sounded to warn the pilots that the wheels still hadn’t been lowered.
By 650 feet, the captain tried to lower the wheels, but by that time a ground-warning alarm was sounding to indicate the plane was below 500 feet , and too close to the tarmac for the undercarriage to lock safely into place.
The co-pilot told investigators that he was confused by the captain’s action in lowering the wheels, as he was getting ready to do the opposite – at this stage, at 392 feet, he aborted the landing and was ready to take the plane back into the air to avoid a crash.
“The combination of factors on JQ57 has provided new learnings and the opportunity to add to these safeguards, which we take very seriously”, Jetstar’s Chief Pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, told The Age.
Jetstar has since introduced changes that include completing landing checklists before 1000 feet and a reminder to pilots to ensure their mobile phones are switched off before take-off.