Scary. I thought this may be of some interest here...
Positioning Of Captain’s Personal
Camera Caused Near Crash Of U.K. A330
LONDON—The U.K. Military Aviation
) is calling for changes in the culture
and behavior of aircrews after it found the near loss of one
of the U.K.’s Airbus A330 tanker aircraft was caused by
the positioning of the captain’s personal camera.
In its March 23 report, the MAA
describes how the Airbus
A330-200 Voyager multi-role tanker transport came
close to being lost with all 198 passengers and crew
The incident took place during a trooping flight to Afghanistan
on Feb. 9 last year. A crash was narrowly avoided
thanks to the aircraft’s flight envelope protection system,
the report says.
says the aircraft, operated by the Airtanker
consortium on behalf of the U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF)
but being flown by a RAF crew, was over the Black
Sea at 33,000 ft. en route to Camp Bastion, Helmand
The captain was alone on the flight deck as the co-pilot
took a break. During this time, the captain took 28 photos
of the flight deck using his personal digital SLR camera
before placing the camera between the captain’s seat
armrest and the left-hand side-stick controller.
One minute before the incident, the captain began
moving his seat forward, creating a slight physical jam
between the armrest and the side-stick.
“At the onset of the event, the captain’s seat was moved
forward again, forcing the side-stick fully forward and initiating
the pitch-down command,” the report says.
The stick command disconnected the autopilot and sent
the aircraft into a steep dive with the A330 losing 4,400
ft. in 27 sec.
With no co-pilot in the right-hand seat, the command
could not be countermanded until he returned, having
scaled across the cockpit ceiling in negative g in order to
return to his seat.
The aircraft’s onboard self-protection systems overrode
the stick input, with pitch-down protection activated
3 sec. after the pitch-down command was given, while
high-speed protection was triggered 13 sec. after the
event started as the aircraft passed through 330 kt. With
the flight control system idling the engines, it recovered
the dive to level flight.
According to the report, the camera became free from
the side-stick and armrest after 33 sec.
Passengers and crew in the main cabin were thrown to
the ceiling, with 24 passengers sustaining injuries during
the dive, along with all seven of the cabin crew. Most of
the injuries occurred as the individuals came into contact
with the ceiling and overhead fittings or were struck by
The crew then diverted the aircraft to Incirlik air base
in Turkey, where it made a safe landing.
While the incident caused damage to a number of
fixtures and fittings inside the cabin, there was no
damage to the cockpit and no structural damage to the
U.K. defense ministry officials formally halted operations
with the military-specification Voyager following the
incident. The report adds that the captain’s oral report
“alluded only to a possible fault with the autopilot.” The
ministry lifted the grounding after 12 days on Feb. 21.
“I classify this incident as a near-miss for very good
reason,” said Air Marshal Richard Garwood, director general
of the MAA
, in the report’s conclusion.
“Frankly, without the excellent technology of the Airbus
A330 flight control laws, the outcome could have been
very different,” he said. “The culture and behaviors with
regard to taking nonessential loose articles onto the flight
deck is a major concern and needs to change.”
The report says that the siting of the camera between
the side-stick and the captain’s seat armrest was the direct
cause of the incident. But it also said there were
several contributory issues, including what the report
describes as “normalized behavior” regarding the carriage
and treatment of loose articles, as well as the use
of the camera in the cockpit. It also questions the extended
presence of a single person in the cockpit, and
that low workload and boredom may have been a contributory
factor as the A330’s cockpit is highly automated,
which led the captain to take photographs to keep
The report says this is the first incident of its type ever
to be reported to Airbus in 190 million flight hours.
“On this occasion, the A330 automatic self-protection
systems likely prevented a disaster of significant scale,”
Garwood adds. “The loss of the aircraft was not an unrealistic
“The RAF is in the process of implementing the recommendations
made by the Service Inquiry, including
instructions to ensure no objects are placed between pilots’
armrests and the side-stick,” an RAF spokesman told
The same spokesman would not confirm the current
status of the pilot. “RAF investigations and consideration
of the matter are ongoing. Therefore, we are unable to offer
additional comment at this time,” he said.
– Tony Osborne, [email protected]
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