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1st of May 2012

An Airbus A300B4-605R was operating a positioning flight from Medinah to Jeddah, both in Saudi Arabia. Onboard only a crew of 10. There were no defects recorded on the aircraft prior to the departure from Medinah. After an uneventful flight, the aircraft was vectored for an ILS approach to runway 16R by ATC.

The aircraft after coming to a stop (source & © AIB Saudia Arabia)

At 8 miles from touchdown, at an altitude of 2600 ft, the landing gear was selected down by the crew. Both main gears locked down, however, the nose landing gear did not extend while the nose gear bay doors had opened. Up to that moment, the co-pilot had been flying the aircraft (pilot flying) while the captain was the pilot monitoring. They changed roles and the captain became pilot flying, who performed a missed approach. After informing ATC the aircraft was given a free area of airspace where they could attempt to lower the gear. At least 10 attempts were made to lower the gear manually (free-fall). All these attempts were unsuccessful, the nose gear bay doors were open, but the nose landing gear would not extend. A low pass over runway 16R was flown at 500 feet AGL, and ATC confirmed the nose gear bay doors were open, the nose landing gear was not down. While firefighters foamed a part of runway 16L the aircraft was vectored over the Red Sea to reduce to fuel load.

Sparks can be seen as the aircraft slows down (source & © AIB Saudia Arabia)

The crew performed the "Landing with Nose Landing gear Abnormal" checklist to configure the aircraft correctly for the upcoming landing. The weather was reported as wind 220/12 G19 (220º at 12 knots, Gusting to 19 knots) and a temperature of 37ºC. Once everything was ready the aircraft was vectored for an approach to runway 16L With the AutoPilot and the Auto Throttle selected off, the approach was flown manually by the captain. Touchdown of the main landing gears was 4000 feet past the threshold of the runway, the nose was kept up as long as possible, once the nose landing gear doors and fuselage came in contact with the foamed runway, sparks were observed. Fire engines followed the aircraft as it passed them, reaching the aircraft within 30 seconds of the aircraft coming to a full stop. They applied fire fighting foam to the nose section of the aircraft, even though there was no sign of fire. Firefighters assisted with the evacuation of the crew via a ladder, provided by the firefighters.

Damage to the nose section as seen during recovery of the aircraft. (source & © AIB Saudia Arabia)

The accident was investigated by the Aviation Investigation Bureau of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in their report (available by clicking here) the following findings related to the cause are mentioned;

  • A spring in the Nose Landing Gear Up-Lock was broken

  • This spring had been broken for a prolonged time

  • The Nose Landing Gear Up-Lock was damaged as a result of the broken spring

  • The fracture had started after at least 6000 cycles.

  • Normal and free-fall operation of the landing gear was not possible, as the broken spring jammed the mechanism

The aircraft was assessed and considered as damaged beyond repair.

The up-lock assembly with details on the damage (source & © AIB Saudia Arabia)

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