Pilot Forgot to Lower Landing Gear Because He Was Texting, Probe Finds

Investigators found that for two minutes as the plane descended to 1000 feet, the pilots took no necessary preparations for landing

By Sam Schulz
|  Thursday, Apr 19, 2012  |  Updated 1:45 PM EDT
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An Australian government inquiry has determined that a Jetstar flight aborted its landing last year because its captain was distracted by texts he was receiving and forgot to lower the landing gear.

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The pilot of an Australian passenger flight forgot to lower the plane's wheels for landing because he was too busy texting, a government inquiry has found.

In its report, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report said that the distracted captain and fatigued co-pilot of a Jetstar Airways flight to Singapore failed to complete their landing checklist, The Age reported.

At less than 400 feet from the ground, they had to take the emergency measure of reascending to try again, the report said.

The investigators found that as the plane descended from 2800 feet to 1000 feet in altitude over the span of about two minutes, the pilots took no necessary preparations for landing — including lowering the landing gear.

The board said that around 2500 or 2000 feet, the captain's cell phone began beeping with incoming texts. The captain didn't respond to the co-pilot's requests, and when the co-pilot looked over, he saw his captain "preoccupied" with his phone, the report said.

But even after that, neither the captain nor the co-pilot figured out that the landing gear had still not been lowered, according to the report; they did only after an alert started flashing at 720 feet.

By the time the captain began trying to lower the landing gear, the plane was too low to do so, and a ground-warning alarm began to sound, investigators said. At 392 feet, the crew aborted the landing and flew higher, and the pilots lost track of their altitude, they added.

The airline, a budget subsidiary of Qantas, said that in the wake of the incident two years ago it had put in place a reminder to pilots to turn their phones off before take-off, according to The Age.

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