The Touchdown Set-Up
Be prepared for any last-minute corrections when landing
The flight manual also stated that to ensure that the airplane is in the correct landing attitude and airspeed at touchdown, pilots should smoothly increase back pressure on the control column as the airplane descends through 30 feet AGL, bringing the nose of the airplane up an additional two degrees to 2.5 degrees above its approach pitch attitude (resulting in about a seven-degree to 7.5-degree nose-up pitch attitude). The flight manual further stated that this pitch attitude should be established by 10 feet AGL and that, subsequently, a constant pitch attitude should be maintained to touchdown.
The captain told investigators that he was satisfied with the first officer’s flying techniques during the entire approach. He indicated that he did not observe anything “out of limits.” The first officer stated that she maintained a wind correction angle of about 10 degrees left of the runway heading and an approach airspeed of 149 knots until the airplane descended through about 200 feet AGL. According to FDR data, the airplane maintained about a five-degree nose-up pitch attitude from about 1,500 feet AGL until it touched down. No increase in pitch to dissipate airspeed and attain the proper landing attitude was observed in the FDR data as the airplane neared touchdown.
The NTSB determined that the probable causes of the accident were the first officer’s failure to properly apply crosswind-landing techniques to align the airplane with the runway centerline and to arrest the airplane’s descent rate (flare) before the airplane touched down, and the captain’s failure to adequately monitor the first officer’s performance and command or initiate corrective action during the final approach and landing.
Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, NY 10602-0831.