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Flybe flight plunged 500 feet in 18 seconds after autopilot error

Flybe Purple Plane
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A Flybe flight that nosedived at a rate of 4,300 feet a minute was down to an incorrect autopilot setting, according to an incident report.

Forty-four passengers and four crew were on board the Flybe flight from Belfast City Airport to Glasgow Airport when the incident occurred shortly after take-off on 11 January. The plane fell 500ft (152m) in 18 seconds.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that the autopilot was engaged when the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop plane reached an altitude of 411m. The aircraft continued to climb to 457m but then “pitched nose-down and then descended rapidly” because autopilot was mistakenly set with a target altitude of zero.

Cockpit alarms alerted the captain and first officer to what was happening and the captain disconnected autopilot and recovered the aircraft, with it having dropped to 928ft (283m).

They continued the flight to Glasgow and landed without further incident.

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