Distraction Cited in Airbus Near CFIT

 - June 23, 2014, 12:30 PM

An Airbus A320 on approach to Gold Coast Airport in Queensland, Australia, on March 31 descended to just 500 feet above the ground before either of the two pilots realized they had mis-set the aircraft altimeter. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) reported that 15 minutes before beginning their descent, the crew received the altimeter setting from the ATIS and transferred the information to the cockpit takeoff and landing data card.

After programming the correct approach into the aircraft’s flight management guidance system (FMGS), the crew became distracted. The captain, while talking to ATC, missed a flashing “BARO REF” message on the panel indicating the correct altimeter had not been entered into the computer.

The first officer, who was acting as the pilot flying, eventually entered the altimeter setting but chose an incorrect number. As the aircraft descended through the transition altitude, the first officer said, “Set QNH 1025,” and the captain, unaware the number was erroneous, entered the same value in his altimeter. The first officer completed the roll-out onto final approach at about 1,000 feet agl.

At approximately 500 feet agl, the first officer realized something was wrong, but was unable to initiate a go-around before the aircraft’s “TERRAIN” warning sounded at 159 feet agl. The aircraft was able to complete a successful go-around and returned for a safe landing.