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Report finds pilots were not adequately familiar with passenger plane which flew too low on approach to Dublin Airport

The probe determined that both pilots were not adequately familiar with the aircraft they were flying.

The aircraft involved in the incident, EI-FAW, landed safely after a second attempt.
The aircraft involved in the incident, EI-FAW, landed safely after a second attempt.
Image: AAIU

AN AIRLINE PILOT flew below the required altitude as he approached Dublin Airport, an air accident report has found.

The incident happened over Howth as a Stobart Air-operated ATR-72 propeller aircraft carrying 50 passengers approached Dublin Airport on a flight from Edinburgh in 2016.

The findings of the Air Accident Investigation Unit determined that both pilots were not adequately familiar with the aircraft they were flying and that the captain was so distracted dealing with a faulty system that he did not adequately monitor the course.

An investigation was launched following the incident in September 2016 and the findings of the probe were published this week.

The report said that Air Traffic Control at Dublin Airport had directed the aircraft, EI-FAW, to maintain a set altitude and a reduced airspeed to prevent it from coming too close to other aircraft.

However, during its approach towards Dublin, over the coast near Howth, it dipped below this altitude and increased its speed.

An investigation was launched following a report made about the incident to the AAIU.

The report notes that the aircraft descended as it approached Dublin until it reached an altitude of 1,082ft and an indicated airspeed of 168 knots. 

“The altitude of an aircraft at this point on the Instrument Landing System glideslope for Runway 28 should have been 1,975ft,” the report notes. 

In his statement the pilot said there was a fault with an automatic system used to make the aircraft’s rudder more stable. This fault required the pilot to operate it manually.

The co-pilot in his interview with investigators said that the pilot’s proficiency with English was a problem.    

“He observed that, in his opinion, the Commander’s comprehension of the English language was at around 90% of what was being said to him, both prior to and during the flight,” the report found.  

The aircraft was directed around the outskirts of the city and made a successful second approach and landing at Dublin Airport. 

Air accident investigators found a number of causes and made some recommendations to prevent a second occurrence.

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It also determined that the aircraft crew were not adequately familiar with the aircraft type. 

It found that “inappropriate pitch inputs” were made to the Commander’s controls which caused the autopilot to disengage.

The investigation also found that the cockpit communication and co-ordination between the captain and first officer was “sub-optimal”.

The AAIU recommended that flight crews be trained by Stobart Air to preserve flight data and to make accurate reports on occurrences.

It also recommended the aircraft operator should place clear instructions regarding the differences between the ATR 72 500 and 600 versions in the operations manual.

A spokeswoman for Stobart Air said: “We acknowledge and accept the AAIU’s report and can confirm that Stobart Air has implemented the recommendations therein.”

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