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UK airline pilot sacked for sightseeing tour

Ignored 'Pull Up' warning in Shetland jaunt

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The pilot of a passenger plane who flew fives miles off course in bad weather to "show his co-pilot the scenery" has been sacked, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Captain Roger Old, 61, was flying from Aberdeen to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport with 17 passengers aboard a Dornier 328-100 when he took the unscheduled detour. He ignored an automatic warning system which told him to pull up, asking the rattled co-pilot to switch it off.

So concerned was the co-pilot that he "considered wresting the controls from Captain Old", but decided against it because "he thought that to attempt to do so whilst the aircraft was manoeuvring at low level might place the aircraft in a more hazardous situation".

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report, released yesterday, elaborates: "The aircraft encountered worsening weather and inadvertently flew into close proximity with the terrain. The commander went further to the west than was necessary, in order to show the co-pilot some of the local terrain features. The crew were alerted to the situation by on-board equipment, but the commander did not respond to the 'Pull Up' warnings it generated.

"The co-pilot was alarmed by the situation and considered taking control from the commander. However, he thought that to attempt to do so whilst the aircraft was manoeuvring at low level might place the aircraft in a more hazardous situation, especially as communication between the two pilots was being hindered by the warning sounds.

"The co-pilot reported that he could not see the airport as it was obscured by cloud, but could see high ground ahead and to the right. As the aircraft descended below the selected altitude the altitude alert sounded, and the commander asked the co-pilot to silence the alert."

City Star Airlines parted company with Old following the incident, which ended with a safe landing. The airline's flight safety officer, Captain Alan Chalmers, said: "His actions were inexcusable. We think it was something to do with his personality rather than any operating procedures in place at the time. Thankfully, these kind of incidents are less common than they were because safety equipment is more reliable with not as many nuisance warnings."

The AAIB ordered City Star Airlines to "improve training and carry out a safety audit". The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed ex-Captain Old would not fly again "since he had decided to surrender his pilot's licence before it was revoked". ®

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