Monday, 5 Dec 2022

Flight fell 500ft in 18 seconds due to autopilot setting error

A Flybe flight plummeted 500ft in 18 seconds after an incorrect autopilot setting caused it to aim for the ground, an investigation has found.

Forty-four passengers and four crew were on board the flight from Belfast City Airport to Glasgow Airport when the incident occurred shortly after take-off on January 11. A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that autopilot was engaged when the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop plane reached an altitude of 1,350ft.

The aircraft continued to climb to 1,500ft but it “pitched nose-down and then descended rapidly” because autopilot was mistakenly set with a target altitude of zero feet.

The captain disconnected autopilot and recovered the aircraft, having dropped to 928ft. They continued the flight to Glasgow and landed without incident.

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