Distracted pilot forgets to lower landing gear

Here we go again… another article written about a flight crew forgetting about what their duties are.  First of all, since this incident happened in 2010, why is it relevant now?  Second, as you read through the article, with both a Captain and First Officer, neither of them realized that the landing gear wasn’t down for landing? Many of you have traveled on Airbus aircraft, whether domestically or internationally and one thing about these aircraft and others, such as Boeing’s, is that they can practically fly themselves.  Finally, texting?  Neither of these individuals realized that the landing gear wasn’t down, but they were already texting?  I think there may be more to this story than what’s being discussed, but who knows… just throwing in my opinion.  Anyway… here’s the article from Yahoo Travel and following the article, the statement realized from Jetstar regarding the incident.

Jetstar Airbus A320

From Yahoo Travel (by Mike Krumboltz) – We all know that playing on a cell phone while driving a car is a no-no. So, it stands to reason that commercial airline pilots would abstain while flying. Never assume, folks. Never assume.


In a story that is sure to cause no small amount of outrage, a Jetstar pilot was forced to abort  his Singapore landing when he realized at the last moment (the plane was 392 feet from the ground) that he’d forgotten to put the landing gear down. His excuse: He was distracted by incoming text messages to his phone.

The incident, which took place on a 220-seat Airbus A321, occurred on May 27, 2010. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recently released the findings of its investigation. The captain was no rookie. He had more than 13,000 hours of flight experience, while the co-pilot had around 4,000 hours.

According to the investigation’s findings, the plane’s co-pilot turned off the automatic pilot in preparation to land. At this point, the captain’s cell phone started making noises. The captain apparently tried to turn it off, but had trouble unlocking it.

As the plane descended farther, neither was aware that the landing gear had yet to be lowered. The co-pilot looked at the instrument panel, saw that “something was not quite right,” but was unable to determine what that was.

At around 720 feet above ground, the plane let off an alert that the landing gear had not been deployed. The captain tried to lower it, but by then the plane was too low for the landing gear to be extended and locked into place. At 392 feet, the captain elected to abort the landing and return to the skies. The plane later touched down safely.

Fatigue was apparently also a factor in the mistakes. The previous night, the captain was woken twice by hotel fire alarms while the co-pilot was disturbed by housekeeping at 4:30 a.m.

The Safety Bureau didn’t issue fines against Jetstar, a budget airline associated with Qantas, or the two pilots.

Jetstar A320

Tail of a Jetstar Airbus A320

From Jetstar: Statement regarding Jetstar Flight 57

Jetstar is using an incident involving cockpit distraction on one of its flights as part of its regular training for pilots.

On 27 May 2010, JQ57 from Darwin to Singapore cancelled its initial approach into Changi Airport because pilots detected the aircraft was not fully configured for landing by the time it reached 500ft. The aircraft, an A321, landed safely and without incident shortly afterwards.

These cancelled landings – called ‘go arounds’ – are standard procedure for all airlines and happen every day at airports around the world.

A report released today by the ATSB into JQ57 showed that the pilots – both highly experienced and with a combined total of 17,000 flying hours – became distracted by a combination of factors. This distraction led to the pilots’ deciding to perform a go-around.

The ATSB report made no findings against Jetstar, nor did it find any fault with Jetstar’s policies or procedures. The safety of the aircraft was never compromised.

Jetstar’s Chief Pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, said: “We take a very conservative approach to how far before touchdown an aircraft should be completely configured for landing. In the case of JQ57, pilot distraction meant all the landing checklist items weren’t completed before the aircraft passed an altitude of 500ft, at which point a go-around was required under our operating procedures.

“Human factors, like distraction, are why airlines have so many procedural safeguards built into how they fly. The combination of factors on JQ57 has provided new learnings and the opportunity to add to these safeguards, which we take very seriously.”

As well as making JQ57 a case study in its training on the potential for cockpit distraction, Jetstar has also:

  • Added an item to the takeoff checklist providing a reminder to pilots to ensure their mobile phones are switched off. This is a result of the investigation finding one of the pilot’s phones was inadvertently left on and automatically picked up messages on approach to Changi Airport, adding to distraction in the cockpit.
  • Increased the mandatory distance for the landing checklist to be completed from 500ft above the airport to 1,000ft as an additional safeguard.
  • Through training, reinforced the importance of crew ensuring they use mandatory rest periods in between duties effectively.

One thought on “Distracted pilot forgets to lower landing gear

  1. All of us can make do with not-so-comfortable chairs, little leg space, and maybe even not perfect service…But to forget and be negligence on our safety, that’s unforgivable, nor is it acceptable.

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