Too Close! Airplane Nearly Lands on HOTEL! | Summary and Q&A

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March 25, 2023
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Mentour Pilot
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Too Close! Airplane Nearly Lands on HOTEL!

TL;DR

WestJet Flight 2652 had a near miss during landing at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Martin due to poor visibility, mistaken runway identification, and an inadequate warning system.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did the pilots mistake the hotel for the runway during the approach?

The pilots mistakenly identified a hotel as the runway due to poor visibility, heavy rain showers, and the hotel's white color and geometric shape, which resembled a runway in their initial perception.

Q: Why did the GPWS system not issue a warning earlier during the low descent?

The GPWS system has a terrain clearance floor (TCF) close to the landing runway, within which no warnings are issued. In this incident, the aircraft was so close to the runway that the TCF was very low, causing the warning to be issued only when the aircraft descended below it.

Q: What were the consequences of the near miss for WestJet Flight 2652?

WestJet took the incident seriously and published information about it to all their crews. They included it in recurrent training, submitted a proposal for a new approach with better vertical guidance, and recommended improved runway lighting guidelines for ATC Tower controllers.

Q: How did the incident highlight the vulnerability of humans to visual illusions?

The incident demonstrated how visual illusions and misinterpretations can affect pilot judgment, leading to dangerous situations. It emphasized the need for pilot training on visual illusions and improved situational awareness.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • WestJet Flight 2652, a Boeing 737, had a near miss while landing at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Martin.

  • The pilots encountered moderate rain showers and mistakenly identified a hotel as the runway, leading to a dangerously low descent over the water.

  • The incident highlighted the need for improved runway lighting, better pilot training on visual illusions, and consideration of implementing stricter GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) protocols.

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