Warning on the lack of flight of the pilots after the plunge of the plane Tui qualified as “serious incident”


The rapid descent of a Tui Airways plane could be linked to its pilots being grounded for long periods during the coronavirus pandemic, investigators said.

Sixty-seven passengers and six crew members were on board the flight when it was involved in a “serious incident” as it approached Aberdeen Airport on September 11.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said air traffic control (ATC) asked pilots to abort the landing due to a search and rescue helicopter in the area.

After climbing near the altitude of 3000 feet requested by ATC, the Boeing 737 “deviated significantly from the expected flight path” descending to 1780 feet at a speed over 40% more faster than the one chosen by the pilots.

This was a “high rate of descent” and an increase in speed that was “not corrected in a timely manner,” the AAIB said.

It took 57 seconds for the crew to increase altitude and correct the flight path, before landing safely after flying from the Spanish island of Mallorca.

An investigation into the cause of the incident is continuing but the preliminary report noted that the pilots had experienced “significant periods of no flight in the previous 18 months”.

It was the first officer’s fourth flight in nearly 11 months after the captain had made 10 flights in the previous month.

Regulators fear that pilots returning to the cockpit after extended periods of no flight could run the risk of performing below their normal level.

Air travel has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of flights drastically reduced.

The report said both pilots had completed flight simulator sessions during the viral crisis, but warned that it could be “difficult in the simulated environment to replicate moments of high crew workload.”

He added: “Regulators are concerned that pilots returning to the cockpit after long periods of no flight could run the risk of operating below their normal level on their first flights.

“While this investigation has not established a link between this occurrence and a lack of online theft, this special bulletin is being published for awareness purposes and because a link is clearly a possibility.”

A spokesperson for Tui said, “We have worked closely with the AAIB throughout this investigation and will continue to do so until a final report is released.

“The health and safety of our customers and crew is always our primary concern and we would like to reassure all customers and the crew that the safety of the aircraft has been ensured throughout this flight.

“We provide training that exceeds all regulatory requirements, this includes additional refresher and refresher training completed by all pilots before flights are undertaken.

“The industry has faced unique circumstances with many planes and crews coming to a standstill due to Covid-19 restrictions. “

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “Safety is our number one priority, and we continue to offer all assistance to the AAIB in its investigation of the incident.

“We will take all necessary steps to maintain the UK’s strong aviation safety record.

“Although the AAIB has not confirmed a link between this incident and the pilots’ general lack of operational flight due to Covid, it is an issue that the CAA and the airlines have been aware of and have acted. “

Martin Chalk, general secretary of the Balpa pilots’ union, said many airlines have given pilots extra time to prepare for their return to flight, but “there has also been commercial pressure to work in the opposite direction.”

He called on the government to provide funding to airlines to “provide additional training and experience to avoid any degradation of enviable aviation safety standards.”

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