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Pilot Accused of Ignoring Fuel Levels, Jeopardizing 242 over Fear of Demotion

A new report details how a Thomas Cook Airlines aircraft made an emergency landing in August 2013 with critically low fuel levels, the pilot’s negligence blamed on his fear of demotion.

An unnamed Thomas Cook Airlines pilot has been accused of jeopardizing the safety of an aircraft under his control over threats of being demoted. As reported in a bulletin recently released by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), the pilot in question chose to continue flying a Boeing 757 on critically low fuel.

The incident took place on August 17, 2013, on a flight en route from Fuerteventura Airport (FUE) to Newcastle International Airport (NCL) with 242 people on board. Air traffic controllers at NCL instructed the pilots to conduct a go-around, but the situation was handled incorrectly. The botched maneuver caused a “slat and flap overspeed,” leading the pilots to believe they would be forced to make a flapless landing.

The captain and co-pilot subsequently made an emergency landing at Manchester Airport (MAN), which caused the aircraft to be in the air for 20 minutes longer than anticipated. After landing, the total amount of fuel in the aircraft was found to be 700 kilograms below the final reserve figure, with an imbalance of 500 kilograms between the tanks.

The AAIB report blamed the 56-year-old pilot’s personal distractions in part for the sequence of events. A portion of the report read:

There was no indication that the crew’s performance was degraded by fatigue or medical reasons. However, the commander was affected by the major re-organization that was taking place in the company. He tried to put worries about his pending demotion to one side when he was at work but inevitably these still intruded into his mind.

“We have completely reviewed pilot training for go-around maneuvers to ensure operating procedures are accurately followed and when necessary low fuel levels are appropriately declared,” a Thomas Cook representative told The Mirror in response to the AAIB report. “Due to the subsequent review of our fleet and new aircraft and routes, we have now been able to reverse almost all of the demotions ahead of 2015.”

[Photo: iStock]

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thegoderic October 21, 2014

The AAIB report does not make pretty reading as far as the pilot is concerned.