Investigators have found a Qantas pilot was tired, hungry and sick when he flew a plane too low into Melbourne airport.
The captain’s performance capability was “probably reduced due to the combined effects of disrupted and restricted sleep, a limited recent food intake and a cold/virus”, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a report released on Thursday on the March 2013 incident.
It said the selection of an ineffective altitude target and ineffective monitoring of the plane’s flight path resulted in a “significant deviation” below the normal descent level.
Qantas head of flying operations Mike Galvin said the airline had reviewed its training procedures to reinforce the importance of high awareness of situations during landing.
He noted pilots on the Sydney to Melbourne flight had more than 31,000 flying hours between them and that the plane landed safely on this particular occasion.
The flight momentarily went lower than it should as it approached for landing but was corrected after the co-pilot alerted the captain.
The pilots were also alerted by the plane’s automated warning system, triggered a few seconds after the pilots began correcting the flight path, Captain Galvin said in a statement.
“While backup systems worked as they should have, including the intervention by the first officer and the automated warning from the on-board computer, we certainly don’t take this incident lightly,” he said.
The ATSB said the flight crew’s attempts to correct the plane did not stop it from descending outside controlled airspace.
It said limited guidance was provided by Qantas on visual approaches into airports but that the airline had since updated its training material.