FAA report on China Airlines jet released

While the investigation continues into reports of a low-flying China Airlines 747 in Honolulu on the morning of Jan. 4, a preliminary briefing sheet on the incident has been prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration and released by the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye. The Jan. 6 report — the full text of which has been posted online by HawaiiStories.com — notes that air traffic controllers noticed China Airlines Flight 18 inbound from Tokyo had turned inland prematurely and reconfirmed the landing runway with the pilot.

According to the report, the jumbo jet remained above 1,200 feet, and made a normal landing. Several Honolulu residents reported that the plane had flown low enough to pass alongside a 41-story highrise — or less than 500 feet off the ground. Local ABC affiliate KITV aired amateur video of the plane as it passed over Waikiki.

Following the incident, the report states, all personnel have been given face-to-face refresher briefings on safety prosedures, aircraft approach paths and restrictions on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). The report was prepared by Deborah Saito, Assistant Air Traffic Manager at Honolulu International Airport.

The briefing sheet references FAA guidelines requiring air traffic controlers to alert pilots when they are “in unsafe proximity to terrain, obstructions, or other aircraft.”

While the FAA has not responded directly to media inquiries regarding the incident, Saito’s internal briefing sheet was obtained by the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye and released to the press following several requests from reporters.

The text of Saito’s report was as follows:

Date: January 6, 2003
Subject: CAL018, B747, Low Flying Aircraft

CAL018, B747, was inbound from Narita to Honolulu on Saturday, January 4, 2003. Honolulu International Airport was operating on runways 22 and 26. The instrument approach in use at the airport was the LDA/DME Runway 26L approach. The weather was VFR, with scattered clouds, wind 210 degrees 14 knots gusting 20 knots.

Approach control vectored the aircraft and established it on a downwind, approximately 41/2mile parallel to the final approach course. The aircraft reported the airport in sight and was cleared for a visual approach to runway 26L. Normally, aircraft remain offshore until approximately 2 miles from the runway. Approximately six miles from the runway, CAL018 made a left turn toward the airport and proceeded 1/4 mile inside the south shoreline of Oahu to line up for runway 26L. The aircraft’s path took the aircraft over residential and commercial areas which resulted in numerous noise inquiries to the facility. The aircraft’s altitude remained above 1,200 fed MSL until- approximately 4 miles from the runway when the aircraft continued his descent and landed at the airport.

The approach controller did observe the aircraft over land and advised the tower requesting if weather may have been a factor. The approach controller also had the tower controller restress to CAL018 the appropriate runway for landing. The tower controller looked out at the aircraft and ascertained that it was on a level and steady flight path for runway 26L and issued wind. The aircraft made a normal landing.

Status: The facility has completed the following actions to date:

  1. All personnel are being provided a face to face, refresher briefing on Safety Alerts, FAAO 7110.65, par. 2-1-6.
  2. All Tower/TRACON personnel were provided a face to face, refresher briefing on the facility SOP for aircraft vectored to the visual approach for runway 26RAL to “remain on or south of the localizer course”. The MVA/EOVM map is also rebriefed with references to MSAW aural and visual alerts and the requirement for safety alert when aircraft is in alarm status.
  3. All Tower/RACON personnel were provided a face to face briefing restricting all IFR aircraft from the north, south and west of the localizer course from the visual approach clearance. These aircraft shall be vectored for the IDA/DME Runway 26L approach.

Prepared by: Deborah Saito, Assistant Air Traffic Manager, Honolulu Control Facility

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