SAR Crew With High Workload Land Wheels Up on Beach

On 9 August 2016, a Search and Rescue (SAR) Leonardo AW139 of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), JA968A, made a wheels-up landing on a beach in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.  The aircraft had been called out on a rescue mission in a small cove in the wake of a passing tropical storm.

A Japan Coast Guard AW139 (JA973A) (Credit: Hunini)

History of the Flight

According to the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) safety investigation report, as the aircraft was descending through 150ft on approach to enter a hover in the cove, the aural warning that the landing gear was still up sounded.  The aircraft commander requested that the co-pilot cancel the alert.

Japan Coast Guard SAR AW139 JA968A Accident Site (Credit: JTSB)

Japan Coast Guard SAR AW139 JA968A Accident Site (Credit: JTSB)

At the same time the aircraft was experiencing considerable turbulence and the Aircraft Commander was cautious to avoid an over torque.  The crew successfully winched two survivors aboard and it was decided to land on the adjacent beach to pass the casualties to a shore party.  The beach was sloping and their was a risk of debris and so the crew were attentive to those hazards, however the pre-landing checklist does not appear to have been followed according to the JTSB.

On landing…well you may have guessed…the pilot realised that his eye line was lower than usual…

Having landed wheel up, the Aircraft Commander, then lifted the helicopter, lowered the gear and landed again.  The aircraft, which did have a mechanic onboard, was subsequently flow back to Sendai Airport.

The aircraft had suffered damage to the lower fuselage, namely:

  1. Deformed outer skin panel, deformed frame at the fuselage bottom and the damaged Heli-Tele antenna
  2. VHF 2 antenna damaged
  3. upper cover of the hoist light collapsed and deformed
  4. Search light glass cracked
Damage to the Belly of Japan Coast Guard SAR AW139 JA968A (Credit: JTSB)

Damage to the Belly of Japan Coast Guard SAR AW139 JA968A (Credit: JTSB)

JTSB make no comment on why the JCG unusually do hoisting wheels up.

JTSB Probable Cause

…the Rotorcraft suffered damages because it had landed without extending the landing gear.

Regarding why it had landed without extending the landing gear, it is probable that various tasks were occurred in short time span and at same time other crews on board were also focusing on their own various tasks, so that they could not carry out necessary corporation or support, and because the workload of the captain continued to be high, there were not enough time for the captain to shift his mind from the rescue operation to the landing procedure, as the result, he forgot the check prior to the landing prescribed in the flight manual and did not check the landing gear condition.

Safety Actions

JCG actions included:

  • Re-educating, re-training and examining flight for captains and co-pilots;
  • Re-education of Sendai Air Base personnel on the implementation of Crew Resource Management (CRM)
  • Emphasising the application of checklists and briefings
  • Continuations of periodic CRM training and sharing the contents of each flight debriefing systematically to utilize those for practical CRM education
  • Emphasising compliance with Operating Manual and the division of crew roles
  • Continuation of safety audits
  • Dynamic risk assessment of landing sites

Safety Resources

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