Plane chaos after pilot loses glasses

A BRITISH holiday jet with 220 passengers on board scraped the ground during an unsuccessful landing after its crew repeatedly deviated from normal procedures and the pilot made a series of "flawed decisions", according to an accident report published yesterday.

The Airtours pilot on a flight from Birmingham International Airport allowed the Boeing 757's tail section to hit the runway after three unsuccessful attempts to land at an airport in the Dominican Republic last January.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the incident found the pilot and crew repeatedly deviated from standard aviation procedure. The first officer was criticised for failing to point out the potential dangers to the pilot.

The aircraft was badly damaged when it struck the runway at Puerto Plata airfield but none of the passengers was injured. The crew tried twice to land using the airfield's landing system but failed to lock on to the signal.

The pilot then tried to land manually in stormy weather conditions. After this third unsuccessful attempt, the aircraft was diverted to an airport 100 miles away. The pilot did not abandon his attempt to land even when his glasses fell off.

The report recommended that Airtours should review its operating procedures.

The airline said yesterday that the report was "a fair and accurate reflection" of the incident. "We urgently reviewed our procedures and are confident they are now correct."

The report said that landing manually forced the pilot to use "unusual and aggressive manoeuvring". It also found the plane hit the runway because the decision to abort the second landing was made too late, with the result that plane was going too slowly for a clean take-off.

Airtours said neither pilot flew again until the companyhad investigated the incident and both had completed full retraining.

Passengers said after the incident that they were convinced they were about to die. Airtours said it would now look at the issue of compensation.