The official report has now been published regarding an incident in which a RAM ATR 72
aircraft, with 54 passengers and four crew, descended below minimum safe altitude
on two occasions, the second time hitting the sea before diverting and landing
with no injuries to passengers or crew but with substantial damage to the
The report states that whilst the co-pilot was nominally flying the aircraft on the second flight, he was in effect under the instructions of the captain who was giving, “improper instructions.” The report makes clear that on the two approaches in question the commander deliberately broke the minimum descent profile in an attempt to land in poor weather, disabling the Ground Proximity Warning System prior to the approach. This prevented warnings that
would have alerted them to their proximity to the water. They descended within 45 feet of the sea and at a high rate of descent. They landed successfully from the first approach, albeit breaking the minimum descent altitude by almost 1000 feet.
On the second approach they hit the sea, damaging the aircraft. During this approach, the co-pilot (First Officer) initiated a missed approach before the impact as he recognised that the approach was wrong. He raised
the aircraft’s nose and applied power but the captain resisted him by pushing against the control column. When the aircraft hit the sea, the co-pilot was able to climb away. The crew radioed air traffic control saying they wished to
divert due to a bird strike. They subsequently landed at Nador.
Due to the short flight between the first landing and the incident approach at Al Hoceima, the crew completed their approach briefing on the ground prior to take off. The Captain declared that whilst the minimum descent altitude was 760ft, they would descend to 400 feet if the runway was not insight and maintain that altitude until they saw the runway. It is clear therefore that the descent below minimum was a conscious act. The 61 year old captain
had more than 13,000 hours flying time and was an instructor. The co-pilot had joined the company in February.
The full report is long and detailed and I do not intend to
go into many of the elements, which include engineering and documentation as
well as training issues. Suffice it to say that the conclusions are that the
incident occurred due to poor crew coordination, deliberate breaking of the minimum
safe altitude compounded by an unstable approach and disabling of the warning
system that would have alerted them to the impending water contact. The
investigation was carried out by the Moroccan BEA in conjunction with the