An airplane captain lost control of his aircraft after his prosthetic arm detached while touching down at Belfast City Airport.
The Dash 8 aircraft was on a Flybe flight from Birmingham to Belfast in windy conditions and had 47 passengers on board.
The pilot had been manually flying the aircraft before disconnecting from autopilot. He checked to make sure his prosthetic lower left arm had been securely attached to the yoke clamp, which is used to fly the aircraft, and that the latching device was in place.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) reported that upon approaching the stage of landing just before touchdown (called making the ‘flare maneuver’), the artificial arm detached from the yoke clamp and the 46-year-old pilot lost control of the plane.
Given the timing and challenging windy conditions, the captain decided his best course of action would be to move his right hand from the power levers onto the yoke clamp to regain control.
“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,” the report said.
The captain said that in future he would be more cautious about checking the attachment on his prosthesis, as he may have accidentally dislodged the latch. He also said he will brief his co-pilots about the possibility of a similar event and that they should be ready to take control at any time.
The captain is one of Flybe's most experienced and trusted pilots, and Flybe Director of Flight Operations and Safety, Captain Ian Baston, said the company is 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.”
No one on the Flybe flight was hurt, and the plane was not damaged during the incident. The airline confirmed that at no time was the safety of its passengers or crew compromised.
"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 AAIB report said.
"The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority,” Baston said. “This means that Flybe not only adheres to the CAA's strict requirements relating to the employment of staff with reduced physical ability, but exceeds them to ensure that safety is never compromised.”