Pilot’s prosthetic arm detaches during landing

Pilot guided plane down with one hand as strong weather conditions prevented co-pilot taking over

A pilot lost control when his artificial arm detached as he landed a commercial flight in Belfast, a safety report revealed yesterday.

The 46-year-old pilot safely landed the Flybe aircraft from Birmingham with one hand after dark, windy conditions prevented him from slowing down or handing over to his co-pilot.

Despite a bumpy landing at Belfast’s City airport on 12 February, none of the 47 passengers on-board were hurt or the Dash 8 aircraft damaged.

Captain Ian Baston, Flybe's director of flight operations and safety, said it was an equal opportunities employer and "in common with most airlines, means we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities".

"The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority," he said.

After checking his artificial limb was properly attached prior to starting his descent, the experienced pilot disconnected the autopilot and was flying manually, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) reported.

However, just before touchdown the pilot realised the yoke clamp, used to keep a plane level when auto-pilot is off, was no longer connected to his prosthetic and “depriving him of control of the aircraft”.

Planes, including FlyBe's, lie up at Belfast City Airport

With too little time available to allow his co-pilot to take over, and with the difficult weather conditions, the pilot moved his right-hand from the power lever over to the yoke, regaining control of the aircraft.

Despite his quick thinking, strong weather conditions meant normal touchdown was followed by a bounce, from which the aircraft landed heavily.

The co-pilot then reduced speed and brought the aircraft to a safe stop.

The pilot has promised to be more careful checking the latching device on his prosthetic limb, as well as briefing co-pilots in the possibility of a similar event.