Apr 19, 2012

Airline Incident in 2010, News Comes out Now (2012)

A budget airline in Australia had a human error (pilot error) incident in May 2010. The gist of the story is that, the pilot forgot to lower the landing gear while making a landing approach, because he was distracted by incoming cellphone messages. At about 392 feet from the ground, the pilot realized the mistake, aborted the landing and then landed safely thereafter on a subsequent approach. (full report over at yahoo travel). The incident took place on a  220-seat Airbus A320 and the Australian

According to news reports, the pilot was no rookie with over 13000 flights hours experience and the co-pilot had over 4000 hrs as well.

Full Yahoo Travel Coverage

My biggest concern here is not the incident itself, but the huge delay (almost two years!!) since the incident for this news to come to surface. The issue of fatigue is also raised in the article, but the bigger reason is clearly the cellphone distraction. The fact that airline pilots are allowed to have cell phones on and active during take off and landing is a matter of huge concern - especially when passengers are repeatedly asked to switch them off.

Apart from the yahoo travel report, we dug further into the report published by the ATSB (pdf here) and found further mentions of communication issues between the FO (first officer) and the Captain.
Here are some excerpts from that report:

"Phone records showed that there were no texts sent or answered by the captain during the approach."

"By the time the captain was interviewed as part of this investigation, he had erased the messages from his phone. The investigation was unable to obtain the exact timings of the mobile phone messages."
The pilot(s) as well as the airline were not fined or charged over the incident.

http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/distracted-pilot-forgets-to-lower-landing-gear.html
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