On January 1st, a Thai Airways Airbus A350-900 was landing at Frankfurt/Main in Germany when it experienced an unstable approach. According to data reported by The Aviation Herald, the aircraft appears to have experienced a faster-than-expected descent. Because of this, a go-around was initiated by the crew.
The aircraft was on final approach to Frankfurt‘s runway 07R when it unexpectedly descended to about 700 feet above ground level. The altitude at that given distance from the runway threshold should have in fact been closer to 2000 feet above ground level.
Investigating the incident, Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) rated it a “serious incident”. Because of the unstable approach and low-level flying, the autopilot was disengaged and a go-around was initiated. A 2nd attempt at landing was made. The aircraft climbed to 5000 feet mean sea level and positioned for another approach. This attempt was successful and the aircraft landed safely on runway 07R about 15 minutes later.
Further details of aircraft and crew
It was only yesterday that the BFU reported additional details of the flight and crew. In fact, it confirms that both the first officer and captain were in possession of their ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License).
The first officer was the pilot flying. At 36-years-old, the first officer had about 4000 hours of total flight experience with about 1500 hours on type. The pilot monitoring was the captain, who was 43-years-old and had about 8000 hours of total experience, with about 400 hours on type. Two more first officers (all with ATPL) were present on board.
The incident was a big enough deal that it was reported in several Thai newspapers as the pilots were under investigation for the serious breach of procedure.
What we would assume as unrelated to the incident, 4 hours prior to landing, a passenger had become ill and medical assistance had been requested to meet the aircraft upon arrival in Frankfurt.
The incident aircraft was an Airbus A350-900 with registration HS-THF performing flight TG-926 from Phuket (Thailand) to Frankfurt/Main (Germany). The aircraft is just under three years old.
It is difficult to discern what possible factors might have led to the aircraft descending at the rapid rate that it was. Thankfully the crew caught on in time to disengage the autopilot and try their landing again. The outcome of this incident could have been far more serious.
One commenter on the Aviation Herald report states “I have seen it from my home… It was scary indeed. My wife and I thought the plane is going to crash until the pilot started the go-around…Must have been even scarier for people closer to the lowest point.”
For our readers who are trained pilots, what do you think about this incident? What factors would have caused the aircraft to unexpectedly descend at such a rapid rate? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.