Serious incident to the De Havilland – DHC-6 Twin Otter registered PJ-WIS on 24/01/2014 at Saint-Barthélemy (French Antilles)

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

Cat. 2 investigation report: simplified-format report, adapted to the circumstances of the occurrence and the investigation stakes.

The crew carried out a scheduled flight between Princess Juliana international airport on the island of Saint Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy airport. The captain was pilot flying (PF).

On visual final to runway 10 at Saint-Barthélemy airport, the crew felt a jolt flying over Col de la Tourmente. After landing, when backtracking the runway towards the parking area, they reported the jolt to the controller. The crew were informed that they had hit a plane spotter flying over the pass.

The serious incident was the result of the aeroplane flying at low height at Col de la Tourmente on visual final to land on runway 10, and the presence of the pedestrian in the approach centreline, despite signage showing this to be a hazard zone.

The abnormally low path of the aeroplane may have been due to an incorrect gauging of the height on the part of the pilot, a destabilisation due to turbulence common in this location, or a combination of both factors.

The investigation did not determine if the pedestrian had been aware of the danger he was taking despite the warning signs installed.

In addition to the risks of injury to third parties on the ground, this serious incident illustrates the hazards of this specific approach in terms of the height at which fixed or moving objects are flown over. Avoiding them essentially relies on management of the vertical profile of the path by pilots during an extremely complex flight phase.

The hazards specific to this approach must be set against the importance of the aerodrome for the island’s economic activity, and more generally to its opening-up to the world. The competent authorities implemented risk mitigation measures through access restrictions, which include the specified conditions requiring specific training of crews, in particular in commercial air transport.