Pilot’s artificial arm detaches during landing

LONDON — A pilot lost control of a plane carrying more than 50 passengers and crew after his prosthetic arm became detached during a landing in stormy conditions, according to a British accident report released Thursday.

The Flybe Group turboprop was preparing for touchdown at Belfast City Airport in Northern Ireland on Feb. 12 when the pilot’s limb “became detached from the yoke clamp, depriving him of control of the aircraft,” Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said in its monthly bulletin.

The Bombardier Dash 8 was on final approach after a flight from Birmingham in central England when it encountered gusts of 48 knots (55 miles an hour) which were within limits deemed safe for landing, the AAIB said. The commander checked his prosthetic lower left arm to ensure it was securely attached to the yoke via a latching device before attempting to land.

After the limb came loose the man, 46, moved his right hand from the aircraft’s power levers to the yoke, which determines its pitch and roll and is crucial on landing. While that allowed him to regain control, with power still applied the plane bounced on touchdown, though no injuries were reported.

“At no time was the safety of its passengers or crew compromised in any way, nor was the aircraft damaged,” Flybe Flight Director Captain Ian Baston said in an emailed response to the findings. The captain in the report is one of the airline’s “most experienced and trusted,” he said.

Pilots with musculo-skeletal disabilities must satisfy a variety of medical and safety checks, including flight tests, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said. Each prosthesis must also be assessed for compatibility with the yoke of the plane to be operated, with most appropriate only for certain models.

Exeter, England-based Flybe said it follows CAA guidelines on employing staff with reduced physical mobility, and has instituted extra measures to protect against a recurrence.

“The commander commented that he would in future be more cautious about checking the attachment on his prosthesis, as his check may have dislodged the latching mechanism,” the AAIB said, adding that he will also brief future co-pilots that “they should be ready to take control at any time.”

The aircraft was carrying 47 passengers and four crew at the time of the incident.

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