FedEx Express Flight 80: Crash-landed in high winds condition

Accident Summary

Date: 23 March, 2009
Type of error: Pilot Error
Time of accident occur: 0648hr, Japan Standard Time (21:48 UTC, March 22)
Location of accident: Tokyo-Narita Airport, Japan, Runway 34L

Aircrraft Operator: FedEx Express
Aircraft Type: McDonnell Douglas MD-11F
Aircraft Registration: N526FE

Passengers on board: 0
Crew: 2
Fatalities: 2
Survivors: 0

Flight Origin: Guangzhou, Baiyun International Airport, China (CAN)
Destination: Tokyo-Narita Airport, Japan (NRT)


23 March, 2009, a FedEx Express Flight 80 bound for NRT Airport from CAN Airport, crashed upon landing on Runway34L, one of NRT Airport's longer runway. The accident happened in the early morning, in a gusty wind conditions. There were no survivors on board Flight 80. Meteorologists in Japan had earlier issued an alert warning message to the airlines operating into NRT Airport. In the message, it indicated that " Pilots to expect strong gusts (wind shear - a dangerous condition for planes coming in to land) over at NRT Airport, the night before. While Flight 80 is on approach into NRT, the NRT's Air Traffic controllers (ATC) had warned the pilots, that there is a possibility of wind shear up to an altitude of 600 metres (2,000 feet) before landing.

According to the video footage, the MD-11F aircraft bounces a couple of times upon landing the on the runway. The aircraft's nose slammed into the runway, flipped inverted, and skidded at high speed and burst into huge flames. Large amount of black smoke and fire flame can be seen along the runway. The aircraft came to a halt at the grassy patch to the left side of the runway. Emergency Services were activated immediately to response to the gutted aircraft. On site, flames can bee seen shooting out from its fuselage. The fire-fighter injected large amount of foam to contain the fire.

According to the record from the meteorological station, the wind speed was recorded at 72k (45 miles) per hour at the point of the aircraft's impact. Akira Maene, An aviation analyst, explained that, "It appears that there is a sudden change of the weather condition, the wind was weakened at the very point and the aircraft loses its aerodynamic lift."

The accident had forced NRT ATC to shut down Runway 34L and divert all medium and large aircraft to the regional airports. Many flights were cancelled and delayed at NRT Airport.

Information of the two crew members - Flight 80

1) Captain Kevin Kyle Mosley, 54
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (Airplane): April 4, 1989
Type rating for McDonnell Douglas MD-11: June 4, 2000

Total flight hours: 8,132hrs and 00 mins
Flight time in the last 30days: 52hrs and 26min

2) First Officer Anthony Stephen Pino, 49
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (Airplane): June 21, 1995
Type rating for McDonnell Douglas MD-11: October 10, 2006

Total flight hours: 5,248hrs and 00 mins
Flight time in the last 30days: 28hrs and 47min

Accident Investigation outline

The Japan Transport Safety Board (JSTB) was designated as the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) to this accident. In the team leading the investigation, two Expert Advisors tasked to handle the technical investigation to aircraft maneuvering and airframe structure. Besides the JSTB processing the outcome of the accident, Accredited Representative from the United States, also took part in the investigation.

Major matters involved in the investigation:

1) On site investigation and examination of the wreckage aircraft structure
2) Interviews with the parties involved
3) Data analysis of recordings from the DFDR and CVR
4) Image analysis obtained from the Localizer Surveillance Camera
5) Analysis of the meteorological weather condition before and at the impact of the accident
6) Investigating the maintenance records of the aircraft
7) Investigating the flight crew's training history
8) Data analysis of the aircraft maneuver during the approach and landing phase
9) Structural analysis of the airframe

Investigation - Operations

1) Flight crew duty scheduling:
- Analysis of the pilot's activities 72 hrs before the flight.
- Analysis of adequate rest during duty breaks and the circadian timing of those breaks.

2) MD-11 handling characteristics:
- Are the pilots aware that the MD-11 is less forgiving than other large aircraft?
- It indicates that the pilots need to pay more attention while operating the MD-11 aircraft.
- The speed is much faster on approach on the MD-11, as compared to other similar size aircraft.

3) Weather condition whilst arriving into NRT Airport:
- Weather advisory and warning issued
- High possibility of wind shear affecting the landing sequence
- Are the flight crew windshear trained?

4) Training:
- The frequency of training; Tail strike and recovery, bouncing recovery
- The bounce recovery techniques trained, as compared to accident flight scenario
- The number of tail strikes and high bounces incidents
- Understanding of the causes for tail strikes and high bounces

5) Crosswind landings
- Is the technique trained correct?
- Frequency of training
- The severity of crosswind conditions during the training
- When to align the aircraft from crab to wing-low maneuver
- Technique of aircraft alignment maneuver

Investigation - Human Factor Performance

1) Currency of flight and the landing experience of the flight crew:
- The Captain resumed his flying status, after extending his sick leave
- Landing re-qualification of the First Officer
- As a result of long-range operations, there's a limited numbers of landing experience obtained

2) Flight crew's decision making in the cockpit:
- The decision to land the aircraft, despite the present of bad weather condition and warning advisories

3) Pilot Interaction within the cockpit:
- In the cockpit, did the captain exercises his commandship to be in control adequately?
- Pilot advocacy: During the approach and the bouncing phase, there's a lack of advisory or corrective actions.
- Pilot allocating monitoring duties and responsibilities and the flying profile procedures

4) The possibility of unapproved usage of medication on the flight crew.

Meteorological Information Chart recorded at the time of the accident

Turbulence was detected over Runway 34L during the accident. The red ellipses depict the areas of turbulence.


Image from [* Japan Transport Safety Board Report] on 12 September 2011 (see Cineflix, undated-b2)

Instantaneous wind direction and wind velocity chart recorded for Runway 34L.

The wind condition was calm from the northwest direction. However, the wind velocity varied with strong gust became stronger between 0630hr and 0700hr.


Image from [* Japan Transport Safety Board Report] on 12 September 2011 (see Cineflix, undated-b2)

Video footage recorded at Tokyo-Narita Airport (via Youtube)

Video embedded from YouTube on 12 September 2011 (see Cineflix, undated-a1)


This accident may lead to a possibility of Pilot error in decision making by the flight crews of FedEx Flight 80. With the relevant information and warnings issued by the meteorologists, pertaining to the weather condition over at Tokyo-Narita Airport, Japan on 23 March, 2009 and NRT ATC’s warning advice of possible wind shear up to an altitude of 600 metres (2,000 feet) before landing, the pilot in command still decided to land the aircraft.

Should the pilot in command adhere to the advice from the meteorologists and the warnings issued by NRT’s ATC and decide to hold at the holding pattern till the weather condition improves or diverts to a nearby airport, it may have avoided this tragic accident.

1. CINEFLIX (undated-a). Pilot Error. Air Crash Investigations, Undated. Part 1 retrieved on 12 September 2011 from Youtube
2. CINEFLIX (undated-a). Meteorological Information Chart. Japan Transport Safety Board Report, Undated. Part 2 retrieved on 12 September 2011 from Japan Transport Safety Board
3. Aviation week. (2009). Wind Shear Alert Preceded FedEx Narita. Retrieved 12 September 2011, from Aviation Week
4. BBC News. (2009). Fiery Tokyo plane crash kills two. Retrieved 12 September 2011, from BBC News
5. FedEx United Kingdom News. (2009). FedEx Express Releases Additional Information Regarding FedEx Express Flight 80. Retrieved 12 September 2011, from FedEx

Want to know more?

Wikipedia - FedEx Flight 80
This page in Wikipedia offers more detailed information about the occurrence.

Contributors to this page

Herbert Guan

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