Key Points:

  • Ural Airlines A320 crew failed to detect that the landing-gear remained extended post-takeoff, leading to increased fuel consumption.

  • Despite recalculating fuel needs for a diversion to Novosibirsk, the jet ran low on fuel, prompting a field landing.

  • Rosaviatsia highlights the need for comprehensive in-flight fuel calculations, considering various flight anomalies.

Increased Fuel Consumption of Ural A320 Linked to Unretracted Landing-Gear

MOSCOW — A Ural Airlines Airbus A320, en route to Omsk from Sochi, had to land in a field due to a sharp increase in fuel consumption. The problem arose after the aircraft's undercarriage remained extended post-takeoff, which the crew seemingly overlooked.

On 12 September, the Airbus A320 made an initial approach to Omsk. However, a green hydraulic circuit failure occurred when the landing-gear extended, forcing an aborted approach. This malfunction was attributed by Rosaviatsia, the Russian federal air transport regulator, to a compromised hydraulic control line in the main-gear door on the right.

As the Airbus took off again, its flaps and slats, connected to blue, yellow, and green circuits, retracted without issue. But the landing-gear, dependent on the green circuit, remained extended despite the 'up' lever selection. Flight-data details divulged that the extended landing-gear status was continuously indicated.

Deciding on their next move, the pilots referred to the quick-reference handbook. They recalculated landing distances factoring in the hydraulic malfunction and chose to divert to Novosibirsk, which had a more extended runway. But the unplanned extended landing-gear created excess drag, leading to accelerated fuel consumption. For an A320 with extended gear, Airbus notes, fuel usage surges to about 2.8 times the standard rate.

This unexpected fuel drain meant the aircraft couldn't make it to Novosibirsk. The pilots, realizing their predicament, identified a landing spot mid-air and safely landed the twinjet (RA-73805) in a field. Thankfully, all 161 passengers and six crew members remained unharmed. A post-incident check revealed a mere 216 litres of fuel left in the A320 tanks.

It's worth noting that Airbus implemented a hydraulic system modification for A320 models from MSN1939 onwards. This shifted the nose-wheel steering from the green circuit to yellow, with the Ural A320, MSN2166, being among these updated versions.

Though the investigation is ongoing, preliminary findings hint at factors like repeated approach failures, unforeseen headwinds, and pilot decisions impacted by overconfidence as potential reasons for low-fuel landings.

The importance of comprehensive fuel estimations during flights, especially when confronted with anomalies, was emphasized. Investigators stressed the value of adhering to foundational crew management principles.