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 A320, 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.