Flybe Plane Dropped 500 Feet in 18 Seconds, According to Formal Inquiry

Nov 10, 2018

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A Flybe plane carrying 48 people took a 500-foot nosedive after the 60-year-old pilot erroneously selected the wrong autopilot setting just after takeoff, according to the results of an inquiry launched earlier this year.

The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 turboprop plane traveling from Belfast City to Glasgow on January 11 had reached an altitude of 1,350 feet when it “pitched nose-down” toward the ground, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report. The plane “had become visual with the ground” and reached a maximum rate of descent of 4,300ft/min, according to the report, and “descended rapidly” approximately 500 feet in 18 seconds after the autopilot had been set to a target altitude of 0 feet. 

Flybe said built-in warning systems alerted the pilot to the problem, allowing him to take “remedial actions quickly in response” and fix the error at 928 feet. The flight then proceeded to Glasgow without further incident. Furthermore, the report stated that Flybe has taken “several safety actions” to improve future operations, including revisions to simulator training and amendments to the taxi checklist.

Flybe is a British low-cost carrier that ferries about 8 million passengers each year between 81 airports in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

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