The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) was called in to investigate a hard landing after the pilot of a Flybe aircraft carrying 47 passengers lost his arm during the final descent.
The unnamed pilot who has been described as “one of Flybe’s most experienced and trusted pilots” wears a prosthetic arm in the course of his duties – a fact that is known to and approved of by the Civil Air Authority, as reported by the Guardian.
During the final approach to Belfast City airport, and after having disengaged autopilot the prosthesis became detached and he had to transfer his remaining hand from the throttle controls to the flight stick, as the co-pilot did not have sufficient time to respond. Because the throttles were left open for the landing, the engines produced more power than usual at touchdown which caused the aircraft to bounce from the runway, causing discomfort for passengers.
The pilot in question has retained his licence and continues to fly with Flybe. After a joint investigation by the airline and AAIB, Flybe have promised to make changes to flight procedures to make sure this would never happen again, including warning co-pilots about their colleagues arm so they are prepared for landings and other difficult manoeuvres.
Although an air accident investigation due to a lost limb is an unusual event, this hapless but fast-thinking pilot is not alone in operating aircraft while wearing a prosthesis.
Sir Douglas Bader was a famed British fighter pilot of the Second World War who flew with two prostheses. Having lost both of his legs in an air-wreck as a young officer in the 1930’s, he returned to flying duties at the outbreak of the war and became a standout ace, achieving over twenty victories during Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain before being captured and spending the rest of the war in Colditz Castle.