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Getting Back to the Golden

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The airline pilot’s version of Alexander Pope’s famous quote might go something like this: “To err is human; to follow the Golden Rules, divine.”
 
Airbus first began preaching the Golden Rules for pilots decades ago in hopes of snubbing out a long list of pilot-induced errors that were causing incidents and accidents at the time, and still are.
 
Though different versions float about, Airbus latest evolution has four Golden Rules for pilots, as listed in the promo below:
 
 
Most U.S. pilots are taught the first Golden Rule, in a slightly different format, from their first day of training – Aviation, Navigate, Communicate. The guidance is just as applicable from that point forward regardless of how many ratings of licenses the pilot obtains over a lifetime.
 
The Australian Transport Safety Board recently commended a Tiger Airways Australia A320-200 captain for living by those rules; and by contrast, the fate of an A320 crew in Philadelphia appears to show what happens to those who did not follow the creed. 
 
In the Tiger incident, the first officer was performing the take-off from Hobart Airport in Tasmania in February 2014 when flight display indications became abnormal. The captain grabbed the thrust levers from the first officer as the aircraft was accelerating through 60 kt., and pushed them up to the high-power takeoff/go-around detent. The first officer had set the power to a reduced thrust “flex temperature” takeoff position based on the ambient temperature; but crew during the takeoff roll noticed that the flight-mode annunciations on the primary flight displays “were not as they would normally appear,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in its final report on the incident.
 
The crew had originally planned to depart Runway 12 at Hobart and use a standard instrument departure (SID) route for the return trip to Melbourne, with the first officer entering the required takeoff data into the flight management guidance system (FMGS). Data includes takeoff speeds and the flex temperature used for setting the thrust.
 
After waiting on the ground for 75 min. for thunderstorms to clear, the crew prepared for takeoff, selecting a different SID to avoid the weather. On the navigation display, however, the SID included a right turn after departure, rather than the standard left turn shown on charts and required by the airport due to high terrain. 
 
In his attempt to clear the anomaly on the navigation display, the captain selected the reciprocal runway (Runway 30) and then re-selected Runway 12. The action did not remove the right turn, however, and given concerns that the break in the weather “would be relatively brief” and another aircraft was also waiting to depart, the pilots “elected to continue the departure” and manually input a turn to the left into the flight director. 
 
“The crew were unaware at the time, but by momentarily changing the runway in an attempt to clear the apparent departure anomaly, takeoff reference speeds and the flex temperature previously entered in the FMGS had been removed,” the ATSB says.
 
A similar incident in Philadelphia in March, during which the pilots apparently did not command maximum thrust, did not turn out as well. In that case, prior to departure the pilots noticed that the aircraft’s primary flight display indicated the wrong departure runway, and switched runways without entering the required new speed and flex-temperature data.
 
As first reported by Flightglobal.com, the crew received several automated warnings during the takeoff run, including an audible message to idle the engines as the aircraft accelerated through 80kt. Rather than aborting or increasing the engines to maximum power however, the pilot apparently continued at the lower flex level, lifting off to approximately 20 ft. altitude but immediately deciding to abort the takeoff. Somewhere in the process, the aircraft’s tail struck the runway, and the landing gear, tires and rear-pressure bulkhead were badly pranged in the abort. (Picture via Avherald.com/Portman Travel)
 
 
In the case of the Tiger A320, the ATSB credits the crew for “focusing their attention foremost on manually flying a safe vertical and lateral flight path, and managing the aircraft configuration,” despite having made the decision to depart with the aircraft’s automation incorrectly set. "The captain did not consider that the FMGS and FMA (flight mode annunciator) anomalies (that only became apparent after the take-off had been commenced) were sufficiently serious to reject the take-off," says the ATSB. "The captain commented that the decision to continue the take-off was based on an immediate assessment that the aircraft was able to be safely flown under the circumstances, and that a rejected take-off may be difficult given the combined effects of a relatively heavy aircraft and a wet and relatively short runway."

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