One of the first things we’re all reminded to do before setting off on a flight is to turn our mobile phones off. You’d think that this would be second nature to pilots also, but a landing had to be aborted at Singapore Changi in May 2010 because the pilot was distracted by text messages beeping on his mobile phone.
According to reports in Australian press, pilots were distracted by the beeping and forgot to lower the wheels just 150 metres above the ground on the Jetstar airline flight.
A report into the incident has just been released this week by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. It found the pilot had been trying to unlock and turn off the mobile as the aircraft approached the airport. It did not find that text messages had been sent or answered during the approach, as early reports had speculated, but it did confirm the pilot had deleted some messages by the time he was interviewed.
As a result, Jetstar has made changes to its landing procedures and made the incident a case study as part of its pilot training. The takeoff checklist now includes a reminder to pilots to ensure their mobiles are turned off, and has increased the distance the landing checklist has to be completed from 500 feet to 1000 feet above the airport.
Despite these safeguarding changes, the Transport Safety Board made no findings against Jetstar or its procedures.