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Accident and Serious Incident Reports: Crew Incapacitation

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Article Information
Category: Human Factors Human Factors
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

Definition

A selection of reports relating to accidents and serious incidents which involved a Pilot Incapacitation.

Accidents

Events on the SKYbrary Database which list Incapacitation as a causal factor:

  • A319, vicinity Glasgow UK, 2018 (On 30 September 2018, an Airbus A319 Captain had to complete a flight into Glasgow on his own when the First Officer left the flight deck after suffering a flying-related anxiety attack. After declaring a ‘PAN’ to ATC advising that the aircraft was being operated by only one pilot, the flight was completed without further event. The Investigation found that the First Officer had been “frightened” after the same Captain had been obliged to take control during his attempted landing the previous day and had “felt increasingly nervous” during his first ‘Pilot Flying’ task since the event the previous day.)
  • A320, en-route, north of Marseilles France, 2017 (On 17 November 2017, an Airbus A320 flight crew were both partially incapacitated by the effect of fumes described as acrid and stinging which they detected when following another smaller aircraft to the holding point at Geneva and then waiting in line behind it before taking off, the effect of which rapidly worsened en-route and necessitated a precautionary diversion to Marseilles. The very thorough subsequent Investigation was unable to determine the origin or nature of the fumes encountered but circumstantial evidence pointed tentatively towards ingestion of engine exhaust from the aircraft ahead in one or both A320 engines.)
  • A320, vicinity Abu Dhabi UAE, 2012 (On 16 November 2012, Captain of an A320 positioning for approach to Abu Dhabi at night became incapacitated due to a stroke. The First Officer took over control and declared a MAYDAY to ATC. The subsequent approach and landing were uneventful but since the First Officer was not authorised to taxi the aircraft, it was towed to the gate for passenger disembarkation. The investigation found that the Captain had an undiagnosed medical condition which predisposed him towards the formation of blood clots in arteries and veins.)
  • A320, vicinity London Heathrow UK, 2019 (On 23 September 2019, the flight crew of an Airbus A320 on approach to London Heathrow detected strong acrid fumes on the flight deck and after donning oxygen masks completed the approach and landing, exited the runway and shut down on a taxiway. After removing their masks, one pilot became incapacitated and the other unwell and both were taken to hospital. The other occupants, all unaffected, were disembarked to buses. The very comprehensive investigation was unable to establish the origin of the fumes but did identify a number of circumstantial factors which corresponded to those identified in previous similar events.)
  • B733, en-route, northwest of Athens Greece, 2005 (On 14 August 2005, a Boeing 737-300 was released to service with the cabin pressurisation set to manual. This abnormal setting was not detected by the flight crew involved during standard checks. They took no corrective action after take-off when a cabin high altitude warning occurred. The crew lost consciousness as the aircraft climbed on autopilot and after eventual fuel exhaustion, the aircraft departed controlled flight and impacted terrain. The Investigation found that inadequate crew performance had occurred within a context of systemic organisational safety deficiencies at the Operator compounded by inadequate regulatory oversight.)
  • B738, en-route, south east of Marseilles France, 2011 (On 6 July 2011 the First Officer of a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 was suddenly incapacitated during a passenger flight from Pisa to Las Palmas. The Captain declared a ‘medical emergency’ and identified the First Officer as the affected person before diverting uneventfully to Girona. The subsequent investigation focused particularly on the way the event was perceived as a specifically medical emergency rather than also being an operational emergency as well as on the operator procedures for the situation encountered.)
  • B738, en-route, south west of Beirut Lebanon, 2010 (On 25 January 2010, a Boeing 737-800 being operated by Ethiopian Airlines on a scheduled passenger flight from Beirut to Addis Ababa in night IMC disappeared from ATC radar soon after departure from Runway 21 and was subsequently found to have impacted the sea in an unintentional out of control condition some five miles south west of the airport less than five minutes after getting airborne Impact resulted in the destruction of the aircraft and the death of all 90 occupants.)
  • B738, vicinity Porto Portugal, 2015 (On 5 September 2015, a Boeing 737-800 was about to commence descent on a non-precision final approach at Porto in VMC when a green laser was directed at the aircraft. The Pilot Flying responded rapidly by shielding his eyes and was unaffected but the other pilot looked up, sustained flash blindness and "crew coordination was compromised". Subsequently, the approach became unstable and a go around to an uneventful approach to the reciprocal runway direction was completed. The subsequent Investigation noted the use of increasingly powerful green lasers in this way and that such use was not contrary to Portuguese law.)
  • B744, vicinity Dubai UAE, 2010 (On 3 September 2010, a UPS Boeing 747-400 freighter flight crew became aware of a main deck cargo fire 22 minutes after take off from Dubai. An emergency was declared and an air turn back commenced but a rapid build up of smoke on the flight deck made it increasingly difficult to see on the flight deck and to control the aircraft. An unsuccessful attempt to land at Dubai was followed by complete loss of flight control authority due to fire damage and terrain impact followed. The fire was attributed to auto-ignition of undeclared Dangerous Goods originally loaded in Hong Kong.)
  • B763, Atlanta GA, USA 2009 (On 19 October 2009, a Boeing 767-300 being operated by Delta Airlines on a scheduled passenger flight from Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta inadvertently made a landing at destination in night VMC on parallel taxiway ‘M’ instead of the intended and ATC-cleared landing runway 27R. None of the 194 occupants were injured and there was no damage to the aircraft or conflict with other traffic or vehicles. The third rostered crew member had become incapacitated en route with the consequence that neither of the other pilots had been able to take any in flight rest.)
  • B763, en-route, Atlantic Ocean, 2008 (On 28 January 2008, the first officer on a B767, flying from Toronto to London, became incapacitated and the captain elected to divert to the nearest airport, Shannon, Ireland.)
  • BA11, en-route, Didcot Oxfordshire UK, 1990 (On 10 June 1990, a BAC 1-11 operated by British Airways, during climb, experienced sudden explosive depressurisation which resulted in loss of the left hand windscreen. The commander was sucked in the windscreen aperture and was successfully secured by the cabin crew, while the first officer executed a safe landing.)

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Related Articles

  • Human Factors
  • For all accident reports held on SKYbrary, see the main section on Accident Reports accessible through the sidebar menu on the left of your screen.