A training incident involving an inexperienced pilot and 177 Jetstar passengers at the Gold Coast Airport on May 30 is expected to come under scrutiny at the imminent Senate Inquiry into pilot training and standards.

According to an ATSB report, the trainee pilot of the A320 involved “flared” the jet’s nose upwards too early on his approach to a landing, which was under the supervision of the Jetstar captain conducting the exercise with paying passengers on board.

The plane then “floated” low over the comparatively short runway until the captain took control from the learner pilot after it became apparent it there might not be enough runway left in which to make the landing.

However, the radio altimeter height of the flight was just 30 feet above the runway (or 22 feet below main wheels) and the A320 sank and hit its surface before the jet powered away from the airport to return for a more conventional landing.

The ATSB report notes that the trainee pilot had only 50 hours’ experience on the Airbus type when he was designated as pilot in control for the landing exercise.

Pilot inexperience and declining standards of training in Australian carriers is one of the issues that led independent SA senator Nick Xenophon to introduce and win support for the forthcoming inquiry to be conducted by the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee.

The Gold Coast Jetstar  incident is one  of 20  “level 5” or least serious incidents reports released by the ATSB, even though the public may reasonably expect that an incident involving an 177-seat Jetstar flight, while under the control of an inexperienced pilot, deserved to be examined more fully and prominently.

The ATSB identifies no safety issues and makes no safety recommendations in the report. Instead it offers a “comment:

“The incident highlights the importance of recognising when a go-around should be initiated and supports the safety benefits of being ‘go-around-prepared’ and ‘go-around-minded’.”

Pilots who have read the report this morning are angered by the inability or unwillingness of the ATSB to address what appears to be a severe deficiency in flight safety standards at Jetstar.

One pilot said if Jetstar wasn’t able to maintain go-around-awareness in its pilot training exercises, it needed to served notice under the regulations that its air operator certificate would be reviewed.

Peter Fray

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