After allegations of flight caused by hail, AUA wants to wait for the investigation

After allegations of flight caused by hail, AUA wants to wait for the investigation

After the spectacular landing of an Austrian Airlines (AUA) plane at Vienna Airport in Schwechat during a hailstorm, the airline is now facing numerous accusations. The central question is whether the pilots underestimated the situation. According to Austro Control, the storm was known. “We ask for your understanding that we do not comment on ongoing investigations and await the investigation results,” AUA stated in response to an APA inquiry.

The company emphasized on Saturday that, in addition to an already initiated internal investigation, the Federal Safety Investigation Authority (SUB) would also conduct an external review, which must be awaited. The pilots have been given a seven-day leave from flight duty, as is customary in such cases, AUA told the APA. Following the evaluation of the flight data and initial findings, a coordinated training or briefing with the affected Airbus A320 crew will be planned if necessary. After completing this, the crew will be reinstated in-flight service with the support of flight instructors.

According to AUA, the cockpit crew reported that the storm cell was not visible on the weather radar. However, Austro Control’s flight meteorology division pointed out the “thunderstorm hazards with hail in the region” for the period in question. These weather forecasts and specific weather warnings for en-route traffic, which comply with international standards, were published. These aviation-specific weather information are intended particularly for pre-flight preparation and planning of the intended route, which the airline submits and establishes in the flight plan. These weather data are continuously updated and provided to airlines and pilots around the clock.

Austro Control emphasized, however, that air traffic control does not issue instructions for weather-related route changes during a flight. “The decision to divert must and can only be made by the responsible pilot based on the information available on board about the specific weather situation immediately in front of the aircraft, particularly using onboard weather radar.” Critics are now questioning why the pilots did not avoid the storm.

Furthermore, the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported that one of the pilots was allegedly not in the cockpit during the descent because he had gone to the bathroom. Regardless of the weather, there is typically more to do during this phase of the flight than at cruising altitude, so it is generally expected that both pilots should be at their stations during this phase, the “SZ” wrote. AUA also referred to the ongoing investigations regarding this but emphasized that the cockpit crew of this flight “was very experienced in terms of total flight hours and flight hours on the Airbus A320 type.”

The Austrian aviation magazine “Austrian Wings” reported that one pilot had “only 100 hours of flight experience” on the said aircraft type. AUA responded that “media reports that one person had only one hundred hours of flight experience are not correct.”

The Airbus A320, en route from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna, encountered the storm cell on Sunday evening. Initially, a “Mayday” distress call was issued. Nevertheless, the plane landed safely at Vienna Airport, and no passengers were injured.

 

Photo: APA/THEMENBILD/ROBERT JAEGER

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