A flight to the Channel Islands had to divert due to poor decision-making by a pilot, an investigation has found.
The Aurigny ATR-42 aircraft carrying 27 passengers from Manchester to Guernsey landed at East Midlands airport on March 4, 2016.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded ice contamination was the cause of problems and could have been avoided if the aircraft had been de-iced.
A build-up of ice on the tail led to difficulties with pitch controls.
Aircraft handling firms at the airport said all other commercial aircraft departing that morning of “sought de-icing/anti-icing before start-up,” according to the AAIB report
The conditions were described as freezing with snow falling.
The investigators concluded: “A contributory factor may have been the crew’s lack of experience operating aircraft in such conditions.
“The commander optimistically thought that lying snow would blow off the aircraft before rotation; an assessment that was flawed and a possible reflection on the training the pilots had received for such winter conditions.”
The report found it likely the pilot and co-pilot were “susceptible to ‘confirmation bias'”, and neither pilot “seemed to consider the possibility there might be unseen ice on the upper surfaces”.
The manufacturer’s investigation found the horizontal tailplane and elevator was disrupted by ice contamination from the start of the flight until the latter stages of the descent.
Nigel Moll, Aurigny’s flight operations director, said “As the report suggests, the incident was perceived to be the result of poor decision-making, in that the captain elected not to have the aircraft inspected by de-icing ground staff to effectively determine whether de-icing was appropriate or not.”
“We have clear procedures and training in place relating to the need to de-ice an aircraft prior to departure, and our expectation, in these weather conditions, would be for the aircraft to be inspected and, most likely, de-iced.
“However, in this case the captain, who had many years of prior experience with other airlines, exercised his own judgement.”
He said the captain had since left the airline.
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