Pilot incapacitation eyed in Brit Air crash

 - January 31, 2007, 4:37 AM

Pilot incapacitation at the end of the approach phase might have caused a Brit Air CRJ100 to crash about a mile-and-a-half short of the runway at Brest Guipavas airport in France on June 22. According to the preliminary report by the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile (BEA, the French equivalent of the NTSB), the copilot indicated that the pilot was immobile, both hands on the wheel and staring at the instrument panel during the last seconds before touchdown. The pilot was the only fatality among the three crewmembers and 21 passengers.

The CRJ100 was arriving from Nantes, France, on scheduled flight AF5672. During its approach to Runway 26, it diverged left from the localizer and deviated successively above and below the glideslope, the BEA said. The crash occurred 7,000 feet short of the runway threshold and 1,475 feet left of the localizer. The aircraft contacted the ground with the gear down and stopped after  hitting several obstacles. A post-crash fire destroyed the aircraft, though 23 occupants escaped in time. According to the BEA, the pilot died before the fire erupted.

According to the flight attendant, after the evacuation the copilot was repeating: “I wanted to make a go-around but he did not want to.” Later, the copilot gave similar testimony to BEA investigators. He said that, when the glideslope warning sounded, he saw the pilot motionless. He then activated the TOGA (takeoff go around) switches, while still looking at the pilot, who had no reaction. The copilot pulled the yoke aft, but had the impression it was locked. Simultaneously, he pushed both thrust levers forward. He saw a field in the landing light and tried to land the aircraft as well as he could.

The cockpit voice recorder indicated that, at 23:50:58 local time, the GPWS called “five hundred,” then “glideslope” and “sink rate.” At 23:51:01, the aircraft began a right turn. At 23:51:04, the autopilot was disconnected. At 23:51:05, the GPWS called “three hundred.” Between 23:51:07 and 23:51:14, seven “glideslope” warnings were heard. In the same time, the aircraft’s attitude went from -5 to 0 degrees. The last time the pilot spoke was at 23:51:12.

At 23:51:15, the GPWS called “one hundred.” At 23:51:16, one crewmember said, “I have nothing ahead; go around.” Simultaneously, power was increased significantly. The aircraft’s attitude came back to -5 degrees. At 23:51:19, the copilot again said, “Go around.” At 23:51:20 the GPWS alerted, “Sink rate” and “Pull up.” At 23:51:22 the copilot said something resembling “go around” again. The sound of impact was heard 0.75 seconds later.