Air traffic controllers feared plane would crash after 'very quick' turn taking off from Bournemouth Airport
AN AIRCRAFT which took off from Bournemouth Airport banked so severely that air traffic control officers thought it would crash, an accident report has revealed.
The 73-year-old pilot wrestled with the controls of the Cessna Citation CJ1+ plane – which he intended to fly to Rotterdam with three friends – after takeoff on 13th April 2019.
The aircraft had been modified to boost performance but an electrical failure caused a control system to deploy, causing an “uncommanded roll” and the pilot “significant surprise and difficulty controlling the aircraft”.
Sounding “breathless and strained”, the pilot engaged with air traffic control (ATC) which instigated a full emergency procedure.
The pilot turned the aircraft in a manoeuvre described by the tower controller as “so tight that the aircraft appeared to be on its side” and had them believing it would crash short of the airfield.
However, it landed safely and no one was injured in the incident, which was detailed at length in an Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report.
Four safety recommendations were made by the AAIB, and action taken to update training and improve information communication.
The report concluded the pilot had not been aware of extra procedures regarding the modification. The procedures “did not adequately characterise the significance of the system failure”, nor address the failure in all anticipated flight conditions.
Certification flight tests of the system did not reveal the severity of possible outcomes, the AAIB added.
The report detailed how the aircraft took off at 2.17pm but after the autopilot engaged, the pilot felt “a light vibration” before a button on the instrument panel labelled ‘Atlas’ illuminated.
At 2.18pm the aircraft rolled left through 45 degrees at a rate the pilot described as “very quick”, causing the autopilot to disengage.
Recorded data showed a bank angle alert was generated at around 60 degree roll, and there was a sharp increase in acceleration, which reached a G-force of +2.65.
During the incident the pilot pressed the illuminated Atlas button and re-set the circuit breaker but neither action had any effect, so he reported a problem to the ATC.
“ATC attempted to ascertain what was wrong but the pilot sounded breathless and strained, and his transmissions were incomplete and difficult to decipher,” the report said.
“The pilot recalled it took all his strength to lift the aircraft’s nose, reduce its airspeed, and recover the bank angle.”
It went on: “The tower controller described the turn as so tight that the aircraft appeared to be ‘on its side’.
“He and several colleagues believed the aircraft would crash short of the airfield.” The plane eventually landed safely at the Hurn-based airport at 2.23pm.
The report noted the pilot operated privately, held a valid Class 1 medical certificate, had undertaken training at the parent company of the aircraft manufacturer and achieved the top grading in all simulator items, as well as a written exam score of 100%.
It said since 1998 he had bought four Cessna Citations, three new from the manufacturer and one from a private owner. He flew all except one, which he re-sold before it was delivered.
The plane had rolled before on 16th March 2019 flying from Buffalo, US, to Goose Bay, Canada, the report added, but the pilot said that was a “less severe” incident.