Flybe passenger plane plummets towards earth after autopilot error

Terrified passengers plunge 500ft in 18 seconds when Flybe plane's autopilot was accidentally turned

The mistake with the autopilot was not caught during preflight checks.

The plane, which had only just taken off from Belfast City Airport, had reached 1,500 feet before its sudden descent began.

Terrified passengers on board of a Flybe plane narrowly escaped death after an autopilot was set to target the ground and the aircraft saw a 150-meter fall just after the takeoff from the Belfast airport.

The flight continued as planned to Glasgow and landed without further incident.

As automated voices warned "don't sink" and "pull up, pull up", the flight commander disconnected the autopilot.

The Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop plane continued to climb to 1,500ft but then "pitched nose-down and descended rapidly" because autopilot was mistakenly set with a target altitude of zero feet. At its fastest, the plane descended at a rate of 4,300 feet per minute.

The AAIB concluded that the crew's selection of a particular autopilot mode - which are used to automatically control aircraft - before take-off led to the zero altitude target.

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The AAIB has eventually found out that the crew somehow managed to set the autopilot to "altitude zero" and this mistake has nearly led to a catastrophe.

That's according to a newly-published report from the Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), which details how the plane went "nose-down" before descending "rapidly".

Flybe, the aircraft's operator, has since adopted several safety measures in response to the incident including amendments to the pilot's safety checklist before take-offs. No one was injured.

"Flybe maintains a rigorous approach to ensuring the very highest flying standards are maintained", a statement by the airline shared with Newsweek read.

Flybe, an independent regional airline based in England, said it "implemented remedial actions quickly in response to the incident" and changed procdures and training to lessen the risk of a similar incident.

"Flybe operates over 158,000 flights a year and the safety of our passengers and crew remains our number one priority".

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