Controller praised for texting pilot down safely


FIVE PEOPLE on a flight from Kerry to Jersey received mobile phone text instructions from a quick-thinking air traffic controller when he guided them in to a safe landing at Cork.

In what air accident investigator John Hughes described in his report yesterday as a "serious incident", the twin-engined Piper plane lost all onboard electrical power, communications and weather radar soon after take-off from Kerry airport on November 7th last.

He paid tribute to the initiative of the air traffic controller, saying the loss of all aircraft electrics during a flight "is considered very serious".

When he realised his problem the 39-year-old pilot, with four passengers on board, gained height and flew south. With a radio communications blackout on board, the pilot used his mobile phone to repeatedly try to establish contact with Kerry airport and then air traffic control at Cork.

Eventually he managed to contact Cork on his phone, telling them about his problem and his intention to approach the airport from the sea.

He then lost audio telephone contact but the air traffic controller switched to texting and told the pilot that he had a primary radar signal on the aircraft and that Cork would allow them to land there. He then used texts to guide the 30-year-old plane in.

With no power the landing gear had to be lowered manually and the plane did a fly-past of the Cork control tower to check that it was successfully locked down before the plane landed safely.

"In this incident the positive and proactive initiative of the ATC controller, who, on realising that mobile audio communication from the pilot was intermittent, quickly switched to texting his instructions instead," Mr Hughes said.

"This contributed to the safe resolution of the incident and, for such, the controller should be commended for his actions."