A captain lost control of a plane after his artificial arm became detached as he was coming in to land in Belfast, an accident report has said.
The detachment, on a Flybe flight from Birmingham, came as the Dash 8 aircraft, with 47 passengers on board, was approaching Belfast City Airport in gusty conditions.
Shortly before, the 46-year-old pilot had checked that his prosthetic lower left arm was securely attached to the yoke clamp which he used to fly the aircraft, with the latching device in place.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said the captain had disconnected the autopilot and was flying the aircraft manually.
It said that as he made the flare manoeuvre – a stage of the landing shortly before touchdown – “his prosthetic limb became detached from the yoke clamp, depriving him of control of the aircraft”.
The captain considered getting the co-pilot to take control but concluded that, given the time available and the challenging conditions, his best course of action was to move his right hand from the power levers on to the yoke to regain control.
The report went on: “He did this, but with power still applied and possibly a gust affecting the aircraft, a normal touchdown was followed by a bounce, from which the aircraft landed heavily.”
No one was hurt and the plane was not damaged in the incident on the evening of February 12 this year.
The AAIB reported that the captain had said that in future he would be more cautious about checking the attachment on his prosthesis as he may have dislodged the latching mechanism.
Also, he said he would brief his co-pilots about the possibility of a similar event and that they should be ready to take control at any time.
Captain Ian Baston, Flybe director of flight operations and safety, said the company was proud to be an equal opportunities employer.
“This, in common with most airlines, means we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities. Where appropriate, and in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requirements, this does include pilots.
“The senior captain referred to in this report is one of Flybe’s most experienced and trusted pilots. The airline confirms that at no time was the safety of its passengers or crew compromised in any way, nor was the aircraft damaged.
“Following the incident, Flybe immediately undertook a detailed internal investigation from which it determined a series of additional fail-safe safety checks. These were rigorously tested and instigated immediately to ensure that this type of incident could not happen again.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority. This means that Flybe not only adheres to the CAA’s strict requirements relating to the employment of staff with a reduced physical ability, but exceeds them to ensure that safety is never compromised.
“Flybe understands that the AAIB is to review this report to more clearly contextualise certain issues referred to in its findings.”