Imagine how terrified you would be. On the 11th January 44 passengers were on a Flybe plane travelling from Belfast City to Glasgow. After take-off, the pilot engaged the autopilot but made a mistake with the altitude settings, setting the target altitude to 0ft.
Remarkably, the autopilot system allowed the pilot to do this and so promptly headed the plane nose down and plunged 500 feet in 18 seconds.
Alarms went off and the pilot deactivated the autopilot but only managed to rescue the aircraft when it was just 928 feet from disaster. Staff who were interviewed by investigators stated that the plane ‘had become visual with the ground’.
Since the incident, Flybe have amended their simulator training and have also made amendments to their taxi checklist. Presumably Bombadier, the plane manufacturers will also be looking into ways to prevent an autopilot from being set at zero feet target altitude when airborne.
Let’s hope so….