So, hot on the heels of the report that a Jet Airways plane dropped a mile in altitude while the captain slept and the co-pilot played on her iPad, comes the news that a Flybe Dash 8 aircraft landing at George Best Airport in Belfast, narrowly avoided a catastrophe when the captain’s artificial arm came off. The flight, yesterday was coming to an end, when landing in heavy winds. The captain realised at the last moment that his arm had become detached and, not having enough time to seek the assistance of the co-pilot, he transferred his ‘good’ hand from the thrusters to the controls to make the landing. This meant that the plane landed under full power and came down with quite a bump. Fortunately nobody was injured.

Flybe Dash 8 width=
Flybe Dash 8

This raises a few obvious questions to say the very least. It is admirable for Flybe to be employing an equal opportunities policy in its employed of pilots, but seriously, how many of us would be happy getting on an aircraft, knowing that the pilot was missing an arm? The pilot’s union, the airline and other disabled pilots have immediately come out and defended the policy saying that their disabled pilots have to pass more stringent safety checks then their abled bodied ones. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? One disabled pilot, interviewed by the BBC, did little to strike confidence in the hearts of future flyers by uttering the totally ridiculous line, “As disabled pilots, we have to be ten times better than our abled bodied ones.” Personally, I’d settle for my pilot being just as competent as his comrades, but having a full contingent of limbs necessary to land a plane.

This is not a question of disabled rights, it’s a question of passenger rights. Passengers deserve to know that they are in safe hands (preferably two) when they board a plane. It seems incredible that two incidents in as many days have been able to take place.

Jet Airways
Jet Airways

I feel genuine empathy for anyone with any kind of disability, but when lives are literally at stake, I think a bit of common sense should apply. It is not enough to say that you think things will be ok. They have to be ok. A pilot drinking for example would be instantly dismissed, even though it could be argued that it was probably ok and that he or she could probably control the plane alright. It’s not enough, we demand higher standards of airline pilots, which is perfectly reasonable.

If nothing else, we should be demanding, just what the hell is going on in the skies at the moment.