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NTSB issues recommendations to address MD-11 bounced landing susceptibility
3 April 2014
Accident sequence of a FedEx MD-11 at Narita, 2012 (JTSB)

Accident sequence of a FedEx MD-11 at Narita, 2012 (JTSB)

The U.S. NTSB issued seven safety recommendations, aimed at providing long term solutions for reducing the risk of MD-11 landing accidents.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 airplane was involved in fourteen hard landing accidents since 1994, leading to several safety recommendations. The last recommendations were issued on July 12, 2011, while two accident investigations were still underway. These recommendations addressed the need for improved recurrent training and operational guidance for MD-11 pilots. The NTSB believed that the actions described in those recommendations would provide near-term improvements to reduce the risk of MD-11 landing accidents.
The seven new recommendations are aimed at providing longer term solutions for further reducing the risk of MD-11 landing accidents.

The NTSB reviewed data from multiple MD-11 hard landing accidents and identified factors that might have contributed to the severity of these hard landing accidents, including the following:

  • the MD-11’s high landing speed, which increases the difficulty of a properly timed and executed flare because it must be initiated within a narrow timeframe; 
  • the airplane’s geometry, which places the cockpit far ahead of the center of gravity and the main landing gear, reducing pilot awareness of wheel-ground contact; 
  • the MD-11’s automatic reduction of thrust during the landing flare, which could lead to a delay in adjusting thrust or pitch overcontrol during landings with excessive sink rates; and 
  • the airplane’s use for long-range cargo flights, which reduces the opportunities for pilots to maintain landing proficiency compared with transport-category pilots who do not fly such routes.

The interaction of all of these factors might increase the MD-11’s susceptibility to a late flare, a bounced landing, and improper column inputs by the pilot after a bounce, which could lead to overload of the main gear and the potential for catastrophic structural overload, a hull loss, and injuries and/or fatalities, according to the NTSB.

The NTSB issued the following recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

  • Work with Boeing to (1) assess the effectiveness of flare cueing systems to assist MD-11 pilots in making timely and appropriate inputs during the landing flare, (2) provide a formal report on the findings of the assessment, and (3) if the assessment shows that flare cueing systems could be useful to MD-11 pilots, provide copies of the report to all US operators of MD-11 airplanes and encourage them to install such a system on these airplanes. (A-14-004)
  • Work with Boeing to (1) assess methods for providing weight-on-wheels cueing to MD-11 pilots to enhance pilot awareness of bounced landings and facilitate proper pilot reaction and effective control inputs when bounced landings occur, (2) provide a formal report on the findings of the assessment, and (3) if the assessment shows that the weight-on-wheels cueing methods could be useful to MD-11 pilots, provide copies of the report to all US operators of MD-11 airplanes and encourage them to provide a means for weight-on-wheels cueing for these airplanes. (A-14-005)
  • Work with Boeing to (1) evaluate the effect of brief power increases on simulated MD-11 landing distances, (2) adjust the values in published MD-11 landing distance tables accordingly, and (3) provide the adjusted values to MD-11 operators. (A-14-006)
  • Reconvene the MD-10/MD-11 flight standardization board to determine whether currency requirements should be strengthened for MD-11 pilots. (A-14-007)

The NTSB issued the following recommendations to the Boeing Company:

  • In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, (1) assess the effectiveness of flare cueing systems to assist MD-11 pilots in making timely and appropriate inputs during the landing flare, (2) provide a formal report on the findings of the assessment, and (3) if the assessment shows that flare cueing systems could be useful to MD-11 pilots, provide copies of the report to all US operators of MD-11 airplanes and encourage them to install such a system on these airplanes. (A-14-008)
  • In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration,(1) assess methods for providing weight-on-wheels cueing to MD-11 pilots to enhance pilot awareness of bounced landings and facilitate proper pilot reaction and effective control inputs when bounced landings occur, (2) provide a formal report on the findings of the assessment, and (3) if the assessment shows that the weight-on-wheels cueing methods could be useful to MD-11 pilots, provide copies of the report to all US operators of MD-11 airplanes and encourage them to provide a means for weight-on-wheels cueing on these airplanes. (A-14-009)
  • In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration,(1)evaluate the effect of brief power increases on simulated MD-11 landing distances, (2) adjust the values in published MD-11 landing distance tables accordingly, and (3) provide the adjusted values to MD-11 operators. (A-14-010)

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