Pilots texting while flying

Stuff reports:

Confused pilots forgot to lower the wheels and had to abort a landing in Singapore just 150 metres above the ground, after the captain became distracted by his mobile phone, an investigation has found.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report on the May 27, 2010 incident on Flight JQ57, from Darwin to Singapore, reconstructed a scene of cockpit chaos.

The captain, of more than 13,000 hours flying experience, was distracted by incoming text messages on his phone, while the first officer, of more than 4000 hours experience, was probably fatigued, the report said.

So passengers get told phones must be turned off as they may interfere, but flight staff have their phones on – even during a landing. Is this usual?

Somewhere between 2500 feet and 2000 feet, the captain’s mobile phone started beeping with incoming text messages, and the captain twice did not respond to the co-pilot’s requests.

The co-pilot looked over and saw the captain “preoccupied with his mobile phone”, investigators said. The captain told investigators he was trying to unlock the phone to turn it off, after having forgotten to do so before take-off.

You do not need to unlock a phone to turn it off.

At 1000 feet, the co-pilot scanned the instruments and felt “something was not quite right” but could not spot what it was.

At this stage the captain still did not realise the landing gear had not been lowered, and neither pilot went through their landing checklist.

At 720 feet, a cockpit alert flashed and sounded to warn that the wheels still hadn’t been lowered.

At 650 feet, the captain moved the undercarriage lever “instinctively” but then a “too low” ground-warning alarm sounded as the plane sunk through 500 feet, indicating the landing gear was not fully extended and locked.

The co-pilot was confused by the captain’s action in lowering the wheels, as he was getting ready to do quite the opposite  to abort the landing and re-ascend to the skies, investigators said.

Neither spoke to each other about their intentions.

Good God. So both were trying to land the plane independent of each other. That is real mickey mouse territory.

My policy to never fly Jetstar only applies to their NZ domestic operations currently. On the basis of this report, I’m tempted to apply it globally.

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