Stray SMS leads to aborted landing
This is your Captain texting
On May 27th, 2010, as an A310 flying from Darwin to Singapore descended to just 500 feet above terra firma, crew noticed the craft was not ready to land.
In accordance with the procedures of the airline concerned, Australian budget flier Jetstar, the crew executed a “go-around”, the hasty cancellation of landing and consequent rapid ascent to greater safety.
The reason for the incident?
Jetstar is politely calling it a “ cockpit distraction”, but the remedy it will apply to make sure this doesn’t happen again tells us more, as it reveals it has:
“Added an item to the takeoff checklist providing a reminder to pilots to ensure their mobile phones are switched off. This is a result of the investigation finding one of the pilot’s phones was inadvertently left on and automatically picked up messages on approach to Changi Airport, adding to distraction in the cockpit.”
If you’re thinking that what happened is that the pilot’s phone bleeped and he checked his messages rather than checking his readiness to land, you’d be about right.
Jetstar’s Chief Pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, said in a statement that: “Human factors, like distraction, are why airlines have so many procedural safeguards built into how they fly. The combination of factors on JQ57 has provided new learnings and the opportunity to add to these safeguards, which we take very seriously.”
The airline has therefore changed policies to ensure that aircraft are ready to land when 1000 feet above the earth. It has also “reinforced the importance of crew ensuring they use mandatory rest periods in between duties effectively.”
BOOTNOTE: Your correspondent lives beneath Sydney Airport’s main flight path and, in conversation with a pilot relative on a stormy evening this week, mentioned that it was the kind of weather in which go-arounds are not uncommon. The pilot remarked that go-arounds are no big deal these days, are achievable with a press of a single button in many modern aircraft and don’t result in an ascent much sharper than that experienced during takeoff.
But there’s another button for graver circumstances that really does give a plane all it’s got, to get out really nasty scrapes. ®
"why isn't he disciplined for NOT TURNING HIS PHONE OFF, like I would be if I was to vocally refuse to do so on an aircraft?"
I've flown a dozen times in the last 12 months, and although the safety messages clearly state "please turn off", I appear to be the only person doing so. I've seen people with iPads just flip the cover over, and one character took the earphones from his iPad and then plugged them into his iPhone so he could listen to music whilst landing. He just turned his head and ignored the cabin staff completely.
As for actually landing, it's usully accompanied by various pinging noises as people text, check email, etc. I even raised the issue once with a stewardess and she told me that they had been instructed NOT to challenge passengers in case the person started to get snotty with them and caused a rumpus.
Mind you there was one arrogant twat that also was the first out of his seat before the seat belts light went off, was almost trying to get the aircraft door open himself in his hurry. When he got to the baggage reclaim, his bag wasn't there; I openly laughed at him which didn't go down too well - especially when mine was second out and I was able to stroll nonchantly off to the exit.
Question: How come I can't even have a mobile phone on a plane that's switched on during the flight, but the pilot can leave one in his pocket and receive a message without interfering with a single cockpit instrument?
Or is, as everyone's known for years, the "no mobile phone" thing actually NOTHING to do with aircraft safety at all on any modern plane and wouldn't affect it one ounce (because otherwise, they would need you to HAND IN your phone to check it was off and not just rely on you to have turned it off and be honest about it)?
And, either way, how can a pilot break a rule that he expects passengers to enforce when his attention is actually MORE important than any of ours? Who cares about the fly-around (as the article states, it happens all the time for millions of reasons), why isn't he disciplined for NOT TURNING HIS PHONE OFF, like I would be if I was to vocally refuse to do so on an aircraft?
Re: " ... provided new learnings ..."
...for make benefit glorious airline of Australia.