A plane was forced to make a heavier-than-normal landing when the pilot’s artificial arm became detached as the plane was coming in to land.
The Flybe flight was approaching Belfast City Airport, having flown from Birmingham with 47 passengers on board; conditions at Belfast were said to be “gusty,” and as the senior captain guided the aeroplane on its manual descent, his artificial arm became detached. The Dash 8 aircraft landed heavily at Belfast, but no-one was injured and the plane was undamaged.
Flybe have issued a statement describing the captain as one of their: “most experienced and trusted pilots” who had not compromised the safety of either passengers or crew at any point of the flight.
The 46 year-old pilot’s lower arm became detached after he had disengaged the auto-pilot and was flying the aircraft on its descent path manually; as he executed the “flare manoeuvre,” just before the plane touched down, his prosthetic lower left arm, which he had previously checked was firmly attached to the clamp used to fly the plane, became detached from the yoke clamp. The time constraints of the descent, meant that rather than ask the co-pilot to take over, the pilot felt a better course of action would be to move his right hand off the power levers and onto the yoke to get control of the plane.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has investigated the incident; the report describes how the pilot moved his hand to the yoke and regained control “but with power still applied and possibly a gust affecting the aircraft, a normal touchdown was followed by a bounce, from which the aircraft landed heavily.” The report also says that the pilot will be briefing future co-pilots just in case it happens again, but will more cautious about checking his prosthetic limb is securely attached.
Flybe’s Director of Flight Operations & Safety, Captain Ian Baston, said that Flybe was an equal opportunities employer: “in common with most airlines [this] means we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities. The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority. 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.” He added that “additional fail-safe safety checks” had been put in place “immediately to ensure that this type of incident could not happen again.”