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Pilot lost control of plane when his artificial arm fell off

August 15, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A pilot lost control of a commercial passenger aircraft because his artificial arm “became detached” as he was coming in to land, an accident report says. 

The Flybe flight from Birmingham in England to Belfast, Ireland, with 47 passengers aboard was operated with a Dash 8 aircraft. As it was approaching Belfast City Airport in gusty conditions on 12 February 2014, the pilot’s arm effectively fell off.

While the plane landed heavily, no-one was hurt and the aircraft was undamaged.

The drama started with then pilot, 46, checked that his prosthetic lower left arm was securely attached to the clamp that he used to fly the aircraft, with the latching device in place.

As he went through routine manoeuvres before landing “his prosthetic limb became detached from the yoke clamp, depriving him of control of the aircraft”, in the formal language of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report.

The situation was critical because the captain had disconnected the autopilot and was manually flying the aircraft. The pilot has promised to be more cautious in future about checking his attachment, the report said. He has also pledged to brief his co-pilots about the possibility of a similar event, so they can be ready to take control quickly at any time.

Flybe, an English low-cost regional airline group based in Exeter, described the senior captain in glowing terms as one of its “most experienced and trusted pilots”. Flybe was adamant that the safety of passengers and crew had not been compromised in any way.

Captain Ian Baston, Flybe’s director of flight operations and safety, told the BBC the airline was an equal opportunities employer and “in common with most airlines, means we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities”.

That may come as a surprise to passengers.

“The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority,” Baston assured passengers in a statement.

“This means that Flybe not only adheres to the Civil Aviation Authority’s strict requirements relating to the employment of staff with a reduced physical ability, but exceeds them to ensure that safety is never compromised.”

Failsafe safety checks had been set in place since the incident to ensure it would not be repeated, he added.

Written by : Peter Needham

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