The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigated two previous landing incidents of the same Vueling Airlines flight with the same Airbus A320 aircraft, both of which ended without injuries. While the flights were operated by different flight crews, in both cases pilots appeared not to understand when to commence the final descent, the investigators found.  

Vueling Airlines flight (VY8754) from Barcelona (BCN) to Birmingham (BHX) was subject to two similar landing incidents within a four months’ span in 2019. Neither of the incidents had anything to do with the Airbus A320-216 (registration number EC-KLT), as some initially suspected. 

The first incident occurred on August 26, 2019. On the day, the flight VY8754 landed on a third attempt, as the first two approaches were made above the correct descent profile, as noted in the AAIB report issued on August 20, 2020. 

A second similar occurrence happened when the same Vueling Airlines flight approached the Birmingham runway on December 20, 2019. 

Pilots had reportedly failed to accurately read the correct descent point when air traffic control cleared them. After doing so, the crew “had then attempted to calculate what they believed to be the correct descent point, in the process losing situational awareness and descending too late.” 

The pilots reported that ATC provided them with vectors for an RNAV approach and asked to confirm them if they wanted to perform an RNAV approach or a localizer approach, which “confused” them.

The flight crew then successfully landed on the second attempt. However, to do that the pilots used a flight control mode with which they were not familiar, the report highlighted. 

“In both cases, the pilots appeared not to have understood when to commence the final descent to follow the vertical profile of the approach,” the AAIB concluded. The authority recommended Vueling Airlines to include a wider variety of simulation training, review approaches, procedures to approaches, and pilots’ situational awareness.

Vueling Airlines is a Spanish low cost airline. Its parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) also owns British Airways.