RAF pilot sacked for sending Airbus Voyager into sudden dive

Also handed four months' chokey, suspended for 12

The Royal Air Force officer who sent his Airbus Voyager into an accidental dive from 33,000 feet, injuring passengers and crew, has been dismissed and given a suspended prison sentence.

Flight Lieutenant Andrew Townshend was captain of an Airbus A330 Voyager which dropped 4,400 feet in about 30 seconds during a flight from the UK to Afghanistan in 2014. Townshend was bored and taking photos with a DSLR on the flight deck while his co-pilot was making a cup of tea in the galley.

The camera became wedged behind the control stick and sent the militarised airliner plummeting after Townshend moved his seat forwards. The fly-by-wire aircraft’s control logic pulled it out of the dive while the two pilots fumbled with the controls, believing that the autopilot had malfunctioned.

This afternoon a court martial at Bulford Camp sentenced Townshend to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and dismissed him from the Air Force, Forces.TV reports.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the court martial that Townshend’s actions cost the RAF almost a million pounds: £207,000 on repairs to the aircraft, tail number ZZ333, and £827,000 on chartered civilian aircraft to replace the rest of the RAF Voyager fleet for the 13 days they were all grounded as a safety precaution.

As reported earlier on The Register, Townshend was cleared of two charges of perjury and one charge of making a false entry in the aircraft’s tech log after the incident.

Townshend’s co-pilot’s back was broken and he also suffered nerve damage and a ruptured disc. ®

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