This incident had nothing to do with safety vs. profit whatsoever. It happen to be a clear night which is the norm for 90% of time just about anywhere. Within the last 12 months, I've flown 454 approaches but only shot 28 instrument approaches. Of those 28, very few were with ceilings below 1000 feet.
All the normal safety systems were in place and available. My airline requires use of backup navaids during a visual approach at night and briefing it as an instrument approach. We can still shoot a visual approach at night. We just have to have a backup in place, which is usually an ILS. It really doesn't change much anyway other than being slightly closer to the guy in front, but thats not what caused this incident.
I'm assuming the AC guys had the ILS and approach loaded into the aircraft. I've never seen or heard of someone not doing this, day or night, clear or foggy. I'm not on an Airbus but being about 300 feet off to the side, the needle would be offset a little bit but not a huge about to cause concern. As they approached the taxiway, the needle would move slightly farther away, but by this time they are short final, and the runway/taxiway is easily in view and the pilots are simply fixated on it, probably not noticing how far the needle is off. You might be thinking that how could they not notice the needle being off?! Well it's hard to explain but it's super easy for even the most experienced. 28R does have a PAPI, but it is on the left side of the runway. PAPI's can be on either side of the runway, so perhaps they were thinking that was for 28L.
It's pretty obvious fatigue was a major factor in this. They were coming from Toronto and landing at midnight. Assuming they were based there, it was 3 AM body clock time. Who knows what their day had been earlier? Ever try driving when tired? I did a 4 day trip a couple months that was all West Coast flying, even though I'm ORD based. It was the same trip twice in a row and it was all late afternoon shows. Weather was bad in Seattle so were delayed from the get go. On leg 3 of 4, PDX-SEA, we had to divert back to PDX because of low visibility and not enough fuel. We left PDX again with lots of fuel and again had to wait for the visibility to come up just enough to attempt an approach into SEA. We needed 1200 feet of visibility. We got in at 2 AM. We were starting to feel the fatigue. It was quitting time. We were still schedule to go to YVR (Vancouver). We had to say no, and the flight cancelled and we had to deplane passed 70 pissed off passenger that had been waiting for hours. (Sorry folks) Got to bed at 3 AM, which was 5 AM, my body clock time. The point is that fatigue is dangerous and has been a factor any many accidents. Luckily, now a-days we are allowed to call in "fatigued" without punitive measures. But it's difficult to assess.
For those keeping track, I have 81 takeoffs and 77 landing from SFO.
Edited by saxman, 26 July 2017 - 02:36 PM.