Jetstar pilots distracted by mobile phone 'forget to lower wheels'

Jetstar pilots 'forget to lower wheels' due to mobile phone distraction
Jetstar pilots 'forget to lower wheels' due to mobile phone distraction

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Pilots of Qantas's low-cost airline Jetstar had to abort landing in Singapore on a flight from Darwin, Australia at just 150 metres above ground because they were distracted by a mobile phone, an investigation has found.

As flight JQ57 was making its approach to Singapore's Changi International Airport on 27 May 2010, the captain who had more than 13,000 hours flying experience was distracted by incoming text messages on his mobile phone and the first officer with more than 4,000 hours experience was probably fatigued.

Investigators found that the pair had lost their 'situational awareness' leading to poor decision-making and communication, The Age reported.

The co-pilot tried to get the captain's attention twice after switching off the autopilot on the 220-seat Airbus. The captain said he was unlocking and turning off his mobile phone and did not notice his first officer's request.

When the plane was at 1000ft the first officer realised that something wasn't right and at 720ft a cockpit alert flashed and sounded to warn that the wheels still hadn't been lowered.

The captain moved the undercarriage lever 'instinctively' at 650ft and a 'too low' ground-warning alarm sounded as the plane sunk through 500ft, indicating that the landing gear was not properly extended and locked.

As the captain lowered the wheels, the co-pilot was getting ready to do the opposite and abort landing and re-ascend to the sky, the report found.

There was no communication of their intentions. The crew finally aborted landing and powered up thrust at around 119 metres. A further piloting error occurred when the wrong flap setting was applied during the ascent.

Jetstar pilots and passengers are bound by the same rules when it comes to mobile phones. They have to be switched off during take off and landing but can be used in flight mode when at altitude.

Jetstar said lessons learned from the incident had been incorporated in its pilot training.

Chief pilot Captain Mark Rindfleish of Jetstar said: 'Pilot distraction meant all the landing checklist items weren't completed before the aircraft passed an altitude of 500 feet, at which point a go-around was required under our operating procedures.'

'The combination of factors on JQ57 has provided new learnings and the opportunity to add to these safeguards, which we take very seriously.'

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