'This is your pilot. speaking. We have landed at the wrong airport'

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The Independent Online

Passengers on a Ryanair flight to Northern Ireland suffered an unexpected delay yesterday when their pilot mistakenly landed at a military airfield.

Flight FR9884 from Liverpool touched down at Ballykelly military airstrip, five miles short of the intended destination, City of Derry airport. The 39 passengers at first laughed, thinking the pilot was joking, when he announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have landed at the wrong airport. I would ask you to be patient."

One passenger said: "I looked out and saw army officers everywhere. It was just unbelievable. I think the army officers were actually shocked themselves and started taking photos."

The passengers and six crew had to wait until steps were transported from Derry airport before they could disembark. The pilot was taken for questioning and the Airbus A320 jet, operated for Ryanair by Eirjet, was grounded. Civil Aviation Authority investigators began an immediate inquiry.

Ryanair stressed that passengers had not been in any danger. "This incident arose as a result of an error by the Eirjet pilot," said a spokesman. "The pilot was cleared by Air Traffic Control in City of Derry for a visual approach and mistook the nearby Ballykelly for City of Derry."