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Plane Passengers Warned That Pilots Are Out Of Practice After 'Serious Incident'

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Plane Passengers Warned That Pilots Are Out Of Practice After 'Serious Incident'

An investigation is looking into whether the safety of passengers could be at risk as pilots have experienced 'significant periods without flying' due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes after 67 passengers and six crew members were on board a TUI flight that was involved in a 'serious incident' as it approached Aberdeen Airport on 11 September.

Credit: Shine-a-light/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Shine-a-light/Alamy Stock Photo

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the pilots were instructed by air traffic control (ATC) to abort the landing due to a search-and-rescue helicopter in the area.

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After climbing close to the altitude of 3,000ft requested by ATC, the Boeing 737 'deviated significantly from the expected flight path' by descending to as low as 1,780ft at a speed more than 40 percent quicker than the one selected by the pilots.

This was a 'high rate of descent' and an increase in speed which was 'not corrected in a timely manner', the AAIB said.

It took 57 seconds for the crew to increase the altitude and correct the flightpath, before safely landing the aircraft following the flight from the Spanish island of Majorca.

Aberdeen Airport. Credit: Alex Ingram/Alamy Stock Photo
Aberdeen Airport. Credit: Alex Ingram/Alamy Stock Photo
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An investigation into the cause of the incident continues but the preliminary report noted the pilots had experienced 'significant periods without flying in the preceding 18 months'.

It was the first officer’s fourth flight in nearly 11 months while the captain had flown 10 flights during the previous month.

The report stated both pilots had completed flight simulator sessions during the virus crisis but warned it can be 'difficult in the simulated environment to replicate moments of high crew workload'.

Stock image of a flight simulator. Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo
Stock image of a flight simulator. Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo
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It added: “Regulators have been concerned that pilots returning to the flight deck following extended periods without flying could be at risk of performing below their normal standard during their first few flights.

“Although this investigation has not established a link between this event and a lack of line flying, this special bulletin is published for awareness and because a link is clearly one possibility.”

Credit: Touch The Skies/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Touch The Skies/Alamy Stock Photo

A Tui spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with the AAIB throughout this investigation and will continue to do so until a final report is published.

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“The health and safety of our customers and crew is always our primary concern and we would like to reassure all customers and crew that the safety of the aircraft was assured throughout this flight.

“We provide training that exceeds all regulatory requirements, this includes the additional refresher and recency training completed by all pilots prior to flights being undertaken.

“The industry has faced unique circumstances with the grounding of many planes and crew due to the Covid-19 restrictions.”

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said: “Safety is our first priority, and we continue to offer every assistance to the AAIB in its investigation of the incident.

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“We will take any action necessary to maintain the UK’s excellent aviation safety record.

“While the AAIB has not confirmed a link between this incident and pilots’ general lack of operational flying due to Covid, it is an issue that CAA and airlines have been aware of and acted on.”

Featured Image Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, UK News

Rebecca Shepherd
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