by on June 28, 2020

Ryanair jet carrying 172 people from Stansted was 40 seconds from smashing into the ground in France when pilots 'lost situational awareness' in cloud, report reveals 

A Ryanair flight approaching Bergerac airport in poor weather conditions flew too low for more than two minutes and was ordered to 'pull up' by an automated safety system. 

The jet, which was travelling between London Stansted and Bergerac, France triggered several altitude warnings on its approach to the airport - which included the critical 'pull up' instruction when the jet was just 842 feet above the ground while it was eight miles from the runway. 

Shortly before the 'pull up' alert sounded, the crew received a 'terrain' warning which warned them that they were flying too low. 

An investigation by the French air safety regulator BEA showed the aircraft's course during the aborted approach to Bergerac airport. It showed the jet was flying at 2,491 feet as it began its turn away from the runway, but dropped to 1,055ft - which was less than 850ft above the ground, while it was still eight miles from the runway. 


Investigators found the aircraft dropped below the minimum safe altitude and was forced to abort its landing attempt and return to 4,000 feet.

At the time, the first officer, who was flying the aircraft, was conducting a turn in heavy cloud and did not have 'any visual references'. 

The 27-year-old first officer was flying a 'non-precision approach' although the crew had elected to use an automated system to regulate their aircraft's descent.  

The first officer, who had just 400 hours experience, had never flown a non-precision approach - which allows the pilot to follow a pre-determined course down to a minimum altitude. Pilots are not allowed to go below this minimum altitude unless they are able to see the runway. 

The 57-year-old captain was unaware that his colleague had never flown a non-precision approach.  

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