TSB hopes to interview 747 crew in Halifax runway overrun

TSB hopes to interview 747 crew in Halifax runway overrun
Safety officials to give update on probe into plane skidding off Halifax runway
Transportation investigators say it's too soon to know what roles weather and human decision-making played in a 747 cargo aircraft skidding 210 metres off the end of a Halifax runway early Wednesday morning, stopping not far from a public two-lane road.

The Sky Lease Cargo aircraft was arriving at Halifax Stanfield International Airport from Chicago when it overran the runway. It was to be loaded with live lobster in Halifax before heading to China, with a stop along the way in Alaska.

The plane was substantially damaged as it attempted to land shortly after 5 a.m. in wet and windy weather, the Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. Two engines separated, there was a small post-impact fire in one of the engines and the landing gear collapsed.

Austin Adams, a senior operations investigator with the TSB, told a news conference that his team was hoping to interview the crew of four later today. Until that happens, he would not speculate about the factors involved in the incident.

"We're still gathering that information at this point," he said. "We want to see some decision-making and what they were thinking."

The plane was attempting to land on Runway 14, the shorter of the airport's two runways. Ideally, a plane would land into the wind, said Adams. Conditions Wednesday saw strong westerly winds of about 33 kilometres per hour, which Adams described as a crosswind with a tailwind component.

Investigators say it was the pilot's request to use Runway 14. They cautioned against making assumptions about why or what role that might have played, noting all aircraft have certain limitations. Investigators will review what the certification was for the Sky Lease Cargo aircraft for landing with tailwind.

Reports Wednesday said the crew was taken to hospital with minor injuries, but Adams would not provide an update, citing privacy regulations.

Along with interviewing the crew, investigators will also review flight recorder data, weather information, speak to witnesses, analyze runway conditions, review history of the crew and speak with the operator and aircraft manufacturer.

Another thing investigators are examining is the available runway-safety area at the airport, a prepared surface beyond the end of a runway.

Isabelle Langevin, a senior investigator with TSB, said the airport in Halifax has a safety area of about 140 metres, which falls just short of the Transport Canada recommendation of 150 metres. The international recommendation is 300 metres, she said.

"Right now what the Transportation Safety Board would like is for the airports to do their own risk assessment … to define, with the type of operation that they support, what area they should have," said Langevin.

"[For] bigger airplanes, 300 metres would improve safety significantly. So we would like for Transport Canada to work with the operators to work towards meeting the [international recommendation.]"

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HALIFAX — The Boeing 747 cargo jet that overshot a runway at Halifaxs international airport on Wednesday had touched down in rainy conditions while being buffeted by a crosswind with a potential tailwind, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Thursday.

The four crew members suffered minor injuries when the empty SkyLease Cargo plane slid 210 metres off the end of Runway 14 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which means the big jet was headed in a southeasterly direction.

"I believe it was the pilots request for that runway, but thats preliminary," lead investigator Austin Adams told a media briefing at a hotel near the airport.

He said weather data recorded seven minutes before the aircraft landed showed the wind was gusting at 33 kilometres per hour from the west at 250 degrees.

He said the "strong westerly winds" created a crosswind for the aircraft, which included the potential for a "quarterly tailwind."

Aviation analyst and former safety board investigator Larry Vance has said it appears the plane landed with a tailwind — something he called an "immediate red flag."

Vance said airplanes typically take off and land into the wind, which offers pilots more lift and, as a result, more control.

However, all aircraft are designed to land with a crosswind or tailwind, though each aircraft has its limits, said TSB investigator Isabelle Langevin. She said the board will be looking into the limits for the Boeing 747-400.

When asked why a pilot would chose to land on a wet runway while dealing with a tailwind, Adams said it all comes down to what was decided in the cockpit.

"I dont want to speculate or state anything," he said. "I want to engage the crew and speak with them about their decision-making process."

Flight KKE 4854, which had arrived from Chicago just after 5 a.m., was to be loaded with live lobster destined for China.

As the plane slid down a slight embankment covered in grass, it hit a large localizer antenna, its landing gear collapsed, two of its four engines were torn off and there was a small fire under the tail section — caused by one of the severed engines.

The safety board, which is an independent agency, says there has been an average of nine overrun incidents every year in Canada since 2013.

"The consequences can be particularly serious when there is no adequate runway end safety area or suitable arresting material," the board said in a statement.

As well, the investigation will review radar data, weather conditions, aircraft systems, maintenance records, pilot training and operational procedures.

If the investigation uncovers any safety deficiencies that present an immediate risk, that information will be immediately relayed to the public and safety officials.