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Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 6:09 pm

About 10 years ago (can't remember exactly when) I was on a flight from CPT to JNB on what was then Flitestar (a now defunct airline) on IIRC an A320. Approaching JNB we flew through a fairly heavy thunderstorm making the ride quite bumpy. On final approach to 03L , and sitting at a window seat, I could see the SAA maintenance hangers coming up, when suddenly the a/c seemed to just drop out of the sky. I was aware of the ground coming up to meet us very fast! Overhead bins popped open, screams in the back cabin and then the sound of the engines spooling up again and really "screaming" - a lot louder than on a normal t/o run. We literally flew down the runway (very low) across the face of the terminal buildings and about where the Delta ramp is now the nose lifted and we took off again (at no time did we actually touch down). The a/c then circled the field, levelled off and then the PIC came on to apologise and advised that the "weather was not conducive to a landing. We the made another approach and finally landed on a runway that brought us in OVER and AWAY from the terminal buildings - a totally different direction the the original approach. It took a hell of a long time to taxi back to the gate!
This incident has always intrigued me and my question is - Did we experience windshear on the initial approach and on what runway did we eventually land?
I live quite close to JNB and am only aware of a/c taking of in a northerly or southerly direction.
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 6:23 pm

Sounds like windshear to me. In T-Storms WX the winds can change very fast, so that the approach got changed.
JNB has two parallel runways, 03R/L and 21R/L. Seems to me that on your first approach you tried to land on a southernly direction on 21R, which has the terminal building at the very end of it. Then you changed approach to 03R OR 21L, which is far away from the terminal and you might get the impression that it leads you away from the terminal buildings. I'm not sure wether you changed directions from southern to northern approach, since taxi times from 03R/21L are in both cases pretty long.
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:05 pm

Very hard to tell for what reason the go-around was done, however it is standard policy in most airlines to initiate a go around if predefined exceedance in bank, pitch (nose up or down), airspeed, sink rate, or ILS deviation is noted.

I have also had to do around in similar conditions in heavy rain not being able to see the runway at the minima, an inch or more of water on the windscreen makes seeing the runway impossible from the front where passengers can see the terminal from out the side.
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:49 pm

Sounds like windshear. Have experienced this in UAL's B733 simulator in Denver. The procedure for correcting this, is to go to Max continuous thrust, basically yanking the thrust levers as far forward as possible, holding a specified nose up attitude, and hope for the best.

There are a few accidents attributed to windshear, notably the Delta Fl191 L1011 accident at DFW in 1985.®=N726DA&airline=Delta+Air+Lines
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:30 pm

I would assume:
1. Windshear/extremely gusty crosswind.
2. Given that this happened 10 years ago and I don't know when the cross runway was closed, I would assume from your story that you landed runway 15 (now a taxiway)... as that was the only runway that would take you away from the terminal.

Just my guesses...

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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:05 pm

I guess JNB is THE place to fly to if you like such landings. The usual daily thunderstorms during summertime and the height of the airport make a good combination for a really bumpy approach. I've been there a couple of times, and none of the landings was really smooth (though not nearly as spectacular as yours obviously was).

Takeoff runs feel also a bit weird, as rotation starts a lot later than usual, due to the height.

What you described sounds like a windshear. When the pilot noticed the increased sink rate, he probably gave full thrust. I doubt that the engines were screaming louder than during a normal t/o run, though. That impression was probably a bit wrong due to the stressful situation.

From my basic understanding of flight physics, I would also understand while you made kind of a low pass over the runway, before the pilot lifted the nose again. If the abort came on short final, immediately pulling up would have meant a certain risk of stalling the a/c, especially if you would hit another frontal windshear upon lifting the nose (pros, flame and correct me if I'm wrong here). Plus, once full thrust is applied, the a/c would usually act much more stable than during an approach.

So it seems the pilot did just the right thing.

There is a video of a TAP approach (A321, IIRC) being aborted due to heavy crosswinds. The a/c is shaking unbelievably, until the pilot applies full thrust again. Could give you a basic idea of what your approach may have looked like.  Smile
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:14 pm

ACTUALLY! This is probably due to a "microburst". This is what caused DL 191 to crash at DFW a while back. Granted a microburst is a kind of windshear. It's basically a strong down-surge of wind occurring at the dissipating stage of a thunderstorm. When the plane enters the initial part, the airspeed increases which makes the PIC decrease power. Then the airspeed falls and engine power cant be increased fast enough to avoid an accident. Consider yourself lucky!
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Mon Aug 28, 2006 4:40 pm

Quoting BigJimFX (Reply 6):
ACTUALLY! This is probably due to a "microburst".

Agree with you. perhaps its the microburst.

We had something similar while on a flight from CCU to BOM on S2. the a/c feel from the sky and we initiated a go around. Ladies and kids shrieked while men went into crouching positions.

I asked the pilot on my way out if it was a microburst and he seemed to acknowledge politly...
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RE: Scary Landing Approach - Question?

Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:08 pm

Quoting BigJimFX (Reply 6):
ACTUALLY! This is probably due to a "microburst". This is what caused DL 191 to crash at DFW a while back.

I agree, but in this case it sounds like the pilot was able to fly in ground effect long enough to recover enough airspeed to go around.

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