A accident with ‘catastrophic’ potential was narrowly avoided when a plane went hurtling through an approach light at the end of a runway, a report has found.
The Canadian Boeing 737 was taking off from Belfast International Airport when a mistake by cabin crew meant its top speed was not hit – and take-off was prevented.
Failing to fly at the required height the plane smashed into the light, but thanks to a lack of runway obstacles, was able to avoid hitting anything else.
The incident occurred when a crew member entered the outside temperature as-52C instead of the actual temperature of 16C.
The error on the Flight Management Computer meant the assumed temperate thrust only delivered 60% of the thrust required for take-off, in July last year.
The Sunwing plane hit a light but did manage to fly to Greece without further incident – had there been any other obstacles in the flight path – there could have been a ‘catastrophic’ incident a report said
A further malfunction meant staff were not alerted via an alarm to the mistake during take-off at around 3.45pm.
The Sunwing Airlines plane destined for Corfu then took off from the airport with ‘insufficient power to meet regulated performance requirements’ and struck the light.
An investigation found there were no injuries and no damage to the aircraft which continued its flight to Corfu without incident but the report adds that this was only because of a lack of obstacles in the flight path.
The report states: ‘It was only the benign nature of the runway clearway and lack of obstacles in the climb-out path which allowed the aircraft to climb away without further collision after it struck the runway light.
‘Had an engine failed at a critical moment during take-off, the consequences could have been catastrophic.’
A report over the incident on July 21, 2017, states the crew did not recognise the issue until they reached the end of the runway.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) only became aware of the serious incident on July 24, 2017 after the Transportation Safety Board in Canada informed the office.
The aircraft operator, tour operator or aircraft commander did not tell the AAIB about the incident, despite having a legal duty to do so.
The 38-year-old pilot and 45-year-old co-pilot, who have over 12,000 hours of flight experience between them, had twice flown together before and both said they had felt rested before the flight.
The incident took place at Belfast International Airport in July 2017 but was not reported for days, a new report found
The investigation also found that the aircraft’s computer did not have the capability to alert the crew to the fact that the outside temperature was incorrect.
This capability does now exist in new software.
It also adds that the crew ‘were unlikely to detect any abnormality because of normal limitations in human performance’.
A spokeswoman from Tui, who were the tour operator of the flight, said: ‘We are aware of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s (AAIB) final report with relation to the July 2017 incident at Belfast International Airport and can confirm that the carrier is in agreement with the findings and has already implemented the recommended actions.
‘We would like to reassure Falcon and First Choice customers that their health and safety is of paramount importance to us.’