Easyjet A319 at Glasgow on Sep 30th 2018, first officer incapacitated
Last Update: September 12, 2019 / 16:52:33 GMT/Zulu time
On Sep 12th 2019 the AAIB released their bulletin concluding the probable cause of the incident was:
The co-pilot experienced anxiety which developed into an anxiety attack during the approach to Glasgow. The commander, ATC and cabin crew worked together effectively to achieve a safe single pilot landing and to get medical help for the co-pilot. The opportunity for the incident to occur might have been reduced by the co-pilot reporting unfit for duty, more effective communication between the co-pilot and the commander, and use of support available from peers or one of the official assistance programmes.
The AAIB reported the commander (50, ATPL, 13,855 hours total, 7,762 hours on type) and first officer (686 hours total, 512 hours on type) had already flown together the previous day. The first officer had been pilot flying on approach to Palma Mallorca,SP (Spain) when at about 30 feet AGL a wind change caused the aircraft to drift off towards the runway edge. The commander took control during the flare and initiated a go around.
The following day the commander flew the leg from Glasgow to Stansted, on the return flight the first officer was pilot flying but developed anxiety thinking over the go around the previous day. The AAIB wrote: "During the approach, the commander mentioned windshear. Immediately after this, the co-pilot felt unable to continue to operate the aircraft and left the cockpit."
The commander took control, instructed cabin crew to assist the first officer, declared PAN with Glasgow Radar. ATC subsequently minized the frequency changes needed and arranged medical assistance to meet the aircraft upon arrival.
The AAIB wrote: "The ambulance crew concluded that the co-pilot had suffered an anxiety attack."
The AAIB analysed:
The co-pilot was experiencing anxiety caused by the wind change and go-around event at Palma de Mallorca the previous day. This is a normal event and manoeuvre that is practised regularly in the simulator, but the co-pilot had not experienced it in the aircraft before. He reported that he was frightened by the event and it triggered self-criticism and performance pressure.
The commander made a comment about windshear during the approach which suggests the aircraft encountered turbulence during the approach to Glasgow. This may have caused the co-pilot’s anxiety to develop into panic. His ability to cope effectively with his emotions would have been reduced by his lack of sleep the night before.
The commander and the co-pilot had different recollections of the interactions between them prior to the co-pilot’s incapacitation. The difference between the two pilots’ impressions of their conversations suggests they did not communicate effectively regarding the emotional issues the co-pilot was experiencing.
It was the co-pilot’s responsibility not to fly if he was unfit and to advise the commander if he felt he was becoming unfit at any point during the flights. In practice this can be a difficult judgement for pilots to make. At the reporting time, the co-pilot felt well enough to report for duty and had informed the commander that he had not slept well. The co-pilot also hoped that if he could perform a good approach and landing his confidence would be restored, so he was motivated to continue as usual.
The co-pilot was not aware of the programmes offered by the operator that he could have used to discuss the go-around event anonymously and confidentially. The peer support programme would have enabled him to talk to another pilot who may have understood the issues well. However, this programme was new and had not yet been fully publicised by the operator. The co-pilot also had the option to discuss his concerns with someone in the management of his employer, or a trusted peer.
Experiencing a panic attack does not necessarily preclude someone from holding an aviation medical but, once known, the condition must be declared and adequately controlled. After support from the operator, his AME and other medical professionals, the co-pilot was assessed as fit to return to flying.
When the co-pilot became incapacitated, the commander, ATC and cabin crew worked together effectively to minimise the risk from the single pilot landing and to give the emergency services access to the co-pilot without delay.
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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