Northern Ireland

Belfast plane incident could have been 'catastrophic'

Belfast International Airport
Image caption The flight, with 185 people on board, left Belfast International Airport on 21 July

An incident, in which a passenger plane struck a runway approach light when taking off from Belfast International Airport, could have been "catastrophic," according to a report.

The Canadian Boeing 737, owned by Sunwing Airlines, failed to accelerate at the necessary speed.

The flight, on 21 July 2017, was going to Corfu.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) final report on the matter was published on Wednesday.

'Insufficient power'

The report stated that an outside air temperature of -52C was mistakenly entered into the Flight Management Computer by a crew member, instead of the actual temperature of 16C.

"This, together with the correctly calculated assumed temperature thrust reduction of 48C, meant the aircraft engines were delivering only 60% of their maximum rated thrust," continued the report.

The plane took off from the airport with "insufficient power to meet regulated performance requirements" and struck the light.

Crew on the flight 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 24 July 2017 after the Transportation Safety Board in Canada informed the office.

Neither the aircraft operator, tour operator nor aircraft commander told the AAIB about the incident, despite being legally obliged to do so.

Image copyright MatusDuda/Getty

An investigation found there were no injuries and no damage to the aircraft.

The flight continued to Greece without incident, but the report noted that this was only because of a lack of obstacles in the flight path.

"Had an engine failed at a critical moment during take-off, the consequences could have been catastrophic," it stated.

The pilot, 38, and co-pilot, 45, who have over 12,000 hours of flight experience between them, had flown together twice before and both said they had felt rested before the flight.

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 now exists.

Safety of 'paramount importance'

The report also said the crew "were unlikely to detect any abnormality because of normal limitations in human performance".

A spokeswoman from Tui, who was 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."

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