I have a question to all aviators. How many times in your career have you been trained to carry out a go around with a malfunction and/or when the situation is against all odds? This is with the exception of an engine failure. The thought of carrying out a go around with a serious flight control or electrical malfunction coupled with adverse weather is unnerving. The mind influences you to put the aircraft on the ground come what may. Would you act differently if you had the confidence having seen such scenarios before?
The preliminary report was accessed from online media. The report suggests an electrical malfunction soon after take off which necessitated an in-flight turn back by the Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet on 05th May 2019 at Moscow.
The aircraft supposedly encountered wind shear and there were multiple warnings between 1100-900 ft on approach. The aircraft descended below glide slope and speed increased. The crew managed to fly to the runway but the aircraft bounced twice with heavy contact with the runway followed by the final touch down. The impact caused structural failure, the fuel lines to rupture and fire engulfing the body.
The reported impact with the runway was at 2.55g, 5.85g ,and 5g.
The investigation will reveal the cause of the accident and the contributory causes. I want to initiate a discussion amongst the learned community on the human factor and training aspects.
A go-around is generally perceived as a failed attempt to land. It is not a failure of the human being or the team but the inability to carry out a task that was planned. We all may not agree but it all depends on how we train our mind and frame the situation.
- Positive thinking. A go around could be a safe maneuver which has prevented an undesirable situation unfolding. The main aim is to land safely and not just to land. The must brief and prepare for an eventuality of a go-around.
- Negative thinking. A failure of the planned mission to land with or without an emergency scenario. If alternate strategies or evasive maneuver are not discussed, then we tend to do what we are more used to and confident of doing.
Studies have shown that operators of machines and even pilots are susceptible to what is called the Cognitive lockup. As per the definition, humans tend to deal with disturbances sequentially. Which means that they deal with one task at a time even if the subsequent task involves more significant risk. The pressure of task completion is proven to trigger cognitive lockup.
On an approach to land, the pilot is under the pressure of task completion, time pressure and framing effect. In this situation, if an approach is destabilized, the pilot should ideally carry out a go-around and reattempt a landing. This involves switching to a second task, which holds higher importance. The pilot is unable to do so due to cognitive lockup since the current task is nearing completion.
Training and mindfulness are two key areas which contribute to safety. Every scenario cannot be trained but the general philosophy should be clear. What sustains flight and the confidence on the basics help the crew to assess the scenario and take judicious decisions.