A flight has turned back to Dublin after a bee became lodged in one of the aircraft’s instruments, making airspeed readings unreliable.
The bee struck 10 minutes into the flight to the southern English port city of Southampton. The airline concerned is Flybe (pronounced Fly-bee), Europe’s largest regional carrier.
Exeter-based Flybe signed a new codeshare agreement with Emirates yesterday, but that’s beside the point. Engineers on the ground found a bee firmly stuck in a pitot tube – a vital measuring instrument on the outside of the plane.
The bee delayed the Flybe flight for about two hours.
“Upon examination, maintenance found a bee lodged into an item of instrumentation on the outside of the aircraft,” Flybe stated.
Pitot tubes measure aircraft speed. Wasps in a pitot tube were blamed for the crash of a B757 carrying 189 people in February 1996 in the Dominican Republic. Confused by the incorrect airspeed readings, the pilot accidentally stalled the plane five minutes after take-off. The aircraft went into a spin and crashed into the sea, killing all aboard.
In another incident, ice forming on a pitot tube contributed to the crash of Air France Flight 447 into the Atlantic Ocean on 1 June 2009, according to French air safety authority BEA. The flight was on the way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and all aboard were killed.
You don’t want a bee in your pitot tube.
Written by Peter Needham