Pilot error aboard China Southern 737 results in aircraft damage

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A pilot's failure to heed his co-pilot's request for a go-around resulted in a China Southern Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft suffering damage when it scraped by antenna beacons near Wuhan airport.

The aircraft, with registration B-5192, was on the Guangzhou-Wuhan route when the incident happened on 25 February. The airframe was built in May 2007.

Preliminary investigations by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) showed that the aircraft was preparing to descend at 22:33 local time. The weather was slightly foggy, with a drizzle, and visibility was between 1,200m (0.75 miles) and 1,500m.

The pilot flying had disengaged the aircraft's autopilot setting when the 737 descended to about 1,000ft (305m).

At 500ft, the crew was unable to spot the runway. The co-pilot called for the pilot to make a go-around and also re-configured the flight director and mode control panel to return to 3,000ft.

Thereafter, he looked out and found the aircraft to be flying too low. By then, a "too low" warning had also sounded, says the CAAC.

The co-pilot immediately called again for the pilot to make a go-around, but heard no response from the pilot. The pilot only started to initiate a go-around after a second "too low" warning sounded.

But as the aircraft accelerated, the flightcrew heard it come into contact with obstacles. Nonetheless, the crew was able to divert the flight to Hefei airport without further incident.

In its report, the CAAC said the aircraft suffered damage including dents and perforations to its left main landing gear and actuator, a door was bent out of shape, a landing gear tyre was cut and also, three of four fixed screws on the bottom front of the aircraft were missing.

The antennas of the non-directional beacons at Wuhan airport were also damaged.

In its preliminary findings, the CAAC concluded that the flightcrew had, before securing visual reference, descended to the minimum descent altitude. The pilot also failed to make a go-around at the first possible instance, and instead, only did so after two warnings sounded.