EasyJet Gatwick flight narrowly avoided crash at Bordeaux, says report

A light aircraft was on the runway as the passenger plane came in to land

The quick thinking of the DR400 pilot prevented disaster as the easyJet plane came in to land
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An easyJet plane coming from Gatwick narrowly avoided crashing into a light aircraft at Bordeaux airport in 2022, a new report has revealed.

The report into the incident blames the airport’s control tower practices.

The easyJet flight was approaching to land at Bordeaux airport at 10:50 on December 31, 2022. However, a light aircraft had been authorised to take off on the same runway.

The light aircraft was a Robin DR400, with just a pilot and his son aboard.

It was only the awareness of the DR400 pilot that prevented disaster, as he understood that the easyJet Airbus A320, with 179 passengers aboard, was coming in to land on his runway.

The DR400 pilot disregarded his authorisation to take off and let the easyJet plane pass just 50m above his aircraft.

The DR400 was not visible to the easyJet pilots who were told by the control tower - having flown over it - to abort the landing.

The easyJet aircraft then landed safely on another runway.

The Bureau d'enquêtes et d'analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile (Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety), or BEA, released its report on the incident on December 19, 2023, having interviewed all parties concerned.

‘A serious incident’

The BEA concluded that the blame for the “serious incident” ultimately lay with the control tower at Bordeaux airport.

“Too few controllers were at their workstations, and so there were insufficient means to manage the situation,” the report states.

“It occurred due to a social consensus in place for several years at the DSNA [Direction des Services de la navigation aérienne, or Air traffic control management service], whereby controllers organise themselves outside of the established legal framework. This means that the number of controllers actually present is lower than the number theoretically required.”

The report praised the quick thinking and awareness of the DR400 pilot.

“He did not know the exact position of the [easyJet aircraft] and had no visibility behind him. He also had no contact with the controllers, who were busy, but inferred that he did not have priority in the situation, since his aircraft was on the ground,” said the report.

The easyJet pilots were not blamed for the incident, however there were some discrepancies in their account.

One of the easyJet pilots said he did not see the light aircraft “because he was looking at the area where the wheels would touch down,” while the co-pilot said “controllers told him to interrupt the landing due to a plane on the runway, but he could not see one”

The BEA report concludes that the only way to avoid such incidents in the future is for the DSNA to crack down on its “illegal, widespread and implicitly tolerated” disregard for not ensuring the actual presence of staff determined as necessary.

The DSNA has yet not responded to the report.

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