Reckless pilot flies with one engine, ignores regulations

Czech Air Accidents Investigation institute (or UZPLN) released a final report revealing that the pilot in command of a Smartwings Boeing 737-800 deliberately ignored engine failure mid-flight and his co-pilot’s continuous assertions to land, and proceeded to the flight’s original destination.

On August 22, 2019, a Smartwings Boeing 737-800, registration OK-TVO performed the flight QS-1125 from Samos (Greece) to Prague (Czech Republic) with 170 people on board. The aircraft was over the Aegean Sea northeast of Athens (Greece) when it drifted down to FL240 and continued to Prague at the same altitude before landing 2 hours later without incident.

Reportedly, this sudden drop in altitude was the consequence of a spontaneous shutdown of one of the aircraft’s engines. The onboard crew attempted to relight the engine twice using different methods but without any success. Due to tankering, the aircraft had a sufficient amount of fuel to make the journey, prompting the captain to continue towards Prague.

According to the investigator’s report, this course of action was an “obvious disregard and violation of applicable Operation Manual Air Traffic Procedures as well as applicable regulations, provisions and safety recommendations,” especially when it was revealed that the first officer stressed to land within the first two minutes following engine failure. The captain refused to comply with Cockpit Resource Management, rendering his co-pilot incapable of participating in the decision-making process.

According to the report, the captain could not have known whether the shutdown was due to contaminated fuel and failed to adopt a safety strategy if the second engine failed as well.

If, for any reason, the aircraft would have needed to divert from Prague to its alternative, the captain would have been required to declare mayday as the fuel reserves were insufficient for single-engine operation. Luckily the aircraft carrying 170 passengers landed safely in Prague and was cleared for service a mere 17 hours later.

According to the UZPLN, the captain on board during the flight continues to believe that his decision-making process was carried out correctly. The investigators recommended Smartwings to perform a psychological examination of the captain at the Institute of Aviation medicine in Prague.


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