British pilot safely lands aircraft after artificial arm detaches

A commercial pilot's artificial arm became detached while he was landing an aircraft with 47 passengers on board. But the pilot reached over with his other arm to take the control yoke and landed.

REUTERS/Gary Wiepert/Files
A Continental commuter Dash 8 Q400 turboprop moves along a snowy runway at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektogawa, New York in 2009. In a similar Dash 8 aircraft, the pilot of a British flight lost contact with the steering yoke when his artificial arm malfunctioned.

A British air accident report has recounted how a pilot briefly lost control of a passenger plane after his artificial arm became detached from the control yoke during landing.

The report, published Thursday, said the incident took place as the Flybe flight from Birmingham, carrying 47 passengers, was approaching Belfast City Airport in gusty conditions in February.

The 46-year-old pilot had shortly before checked that his prosthetic lower left arm was securely attached to the yoke clamp of the Dash 8 aircraft, but as he performed a maneuver just before touchdown the limb became detached.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said the pilot considered getting the co-pilot to take control, but concluded that the best thing to do was to move his right hand to the yoke to regain control.

"He did this, but with power still applied and possibly a gust affecting the aircraft, a normal touchdown was followed by a bounce, from which the aircraft landed heavily," the report said.

No one was hurt. According to the report, the pilot said he would be more cautious about checking the attachment on his prosthesis in the future, and that he would brief his co-pilots about the possibility of a similar event.

Flybe said the pilot remained one of the airline's most experienced and trusted pilots. Captain Ian Baston, director of flight operations and safety, said the company employs staff with "reduced physical abilities," including pilots. He said the airline ensures it adheres to Civil Aviation Authority requirements and never compromises on safety.

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