Last year, we shared video and the details we knew about a WestJet Boeing 737-800 that appeared dangerously low over the bay of St. Maarten. We knew that the aircraft appeared off course and dipped well below glide path. Transportation Canada has now released the final report of the March 7, 2017 incident.
In it, they state that the formal reason for the incident was due to:
Misidentification of runway in reduced visibility contributed to the March 2017 risk of collision with terrain of a WestJet flight in Saint Maarten.
Flight 2652 from Toronto Pearson to Saint Maartin had 158 passengers and six crew members on board. According to the report, “[The airliner] entered a significant rain shower shortly after crossing the MAPON (missed approach point) waypoint. The crew initiated a missed approach 0.30 nautical miles from the runway threshold at an altitude of 40 feet above water. Once visibility improved, the crew conducted a second approach and landed without incident.
Video uploaded by atcpilot.com
The investigation determined that the runway lights and the visual guidance system (PAPI) had been set at a low intensity during the rain shower that had obscured the view of the airport environment. Both the shower and the low lighting limited the visual references available to the crew to identify the runway properly until the aircraft had exited the rain shower and visibility sharply improved.”
The report also states that the crew became distracted as the weather deteriorated quickly on approach citing that “the sudden and unexpected poor visibility during the final approach increased the flight crew’s visual workload and led to inadequate altitude monitoring. The crew did not notice that the aircraft had descended below the normal angle of descent to the runway threshold until the enhanced ground proximity warning system issued an alert.”
After the incident, WestJet added additional training for crews on the airfield. They specifically focused on the unique hazards that the field could present.