Warning over pilots’ lack of flying after ‘serious incident’ involving Tui plane

The flight from the Spanish island of Majorca to Aberdeen descended rapidly and unexpectedly.

Neil Lancefield
Thursday 02 December 2021 12:59
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 (Peter Byrne/PA)
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 (Peter Byrne/PA)

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 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 the pilots were instructed by air traffic control (ATC) to abort the landing due to a search-and-rescue helicopter in the area.

After climbing close to the altitude of 3,000ft requested by ATC, the Boeing 737 “deviated significantly from the expected flight path” by descending to as low as 1,780 ft at a speed more than 40% quicker than the one selected by the pilots.

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

It took 57 seconds for the crew to increase the altitude and correct the flightpath, before safely landing the aircraft following the flight from the Spanish island of Majorca.

An investigation into the cause of the incident continues but the preliminary report noted the pilots had experienced “significant periods without flying in the preceding 18 months”.

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

Regulators have been concerned that pilots returning to the flight deck following extended periods without flying could be at risk of performing below their normal standard

AAIB

Air travel has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, with flight numbers heavily reduced.

The report stated both pilots had completed flight simulator sessions during the virus crisis but warned it can be “difficult in the simulated environment to replicate moments of high crew workload”.

It added: “Regulators have been concerned that pilots returning to the flight deck following extended periods without flying could be at risk of performing below their normal standard during their first few flights.

“Although this investigation has not established a link between this event and a lack of line flying, this special bulletin is published for awareness and because a link is clearly one possibility.”

A Tui spokeswoman said: “We have worked closely with the AAIB throughout this investigation and will continue to do so until a final report is published.

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

“We provide training that exceeds all regulatory requirements, this includes the additional refresher and recency training completed by all pilots prior to flights being undertaken.

“The industry has faced unique circumstances with the grounding of many planes and crew due to the Covid-19 restrictions.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in