Backgrounder–A11H0002 (Resolute Bay)

Stabilized approaches

Occurrence

On 20 August 2011, a Boeing 737-210C combi aircraft operated by First Air was being flown as a charter flight from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to Resolute Bay, Nunavut. At 1142 Central Daylight Time, during the approach to Runway 35T, the aircraft struck a hill about 1 nautical mile east of the runway. The aircraft was destroyed, and all 4 crew members and 8 passengers suffered fatal injuries. The remaining 3 passengers suffered serious injuries.

Stabilized approach

Landing is one of the most critical phases of flight, in part because the aircraft is slowing down and closing in on the runway, reducing the maneuverability of the aircraft. A stabilized approach helps to ensure that the plane is ready and that the pilots are prepared for the demanding tasks ahead.

As the term implies, a stabilized approach involves controlling and stabilizing several key criteria before the aircraft reaches a predefined point. These include altitude, course, speed, rate of descent, and aircraft configuration.

Flight crews are required to stabilize approaches to runways for a number of reasons. Landings will be more consistent and predictable, and flight crews will have adequate time to monitor key elements such as communications and systems operation, thereby boosting their situational awareness.

Establishing and stabilizing the key variables in advance means fewer last-minute adjustments, which helps minimize workload during this critical phase of flight. So when flight crews reach the pre-determined point where they must decide whether to proceed with the landing or carry out a go-around, they have more space—and time—to do so.

This process and these steps ensure safer landings.

This investigation highlighted that there are too many unstable approaches that continue to a landing. Because current defenses have proven less than adequate, and unless further action is taken, the risk of landing accidents will persist.

Recommendation

Therefore, the Board recommends that:

Transport Canada require CARs Subpart 705 operators to monitor and reduce unstable approaches which continue to a landing.

A14-01

Process

Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, federal ministers must formally respond to TSB recommendations and explain how they have addressed or will address the safety deficiencies. As of 25 March 2014, the Minister of Transport has 90 days to respond to the recommendation put forth in investigation A11H0002.

Using an Assessment Rating Guide (which includes definitions for the status of recommendations), the Board evaluates the responses and their overall effectiveness. Each response is assessed as Fully Satisfactory, Satisfactory Intent, Satisfactory in Part or Unsatisfactory. Progress made to address TSB recommendations is assessed by the Board on an ongoing basis.