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Home / Business / Getting lost, like British Airways, is commonplace and mostly human error

Getting lost, like British Airways, is commonplace and mostly human error



  • A British Airways plane accidentally landed in Scotland instead of Germany on Monday, kicking surprise and spotting online.
  • Although most aircraft land on the right destinations, such situations are not entirely unknown.
  • An Associated Press analysis found that at least 150 flights from US airlines alone landed or landed at the wrong airport between the early 1990s and 2014.
  • The errors included landing at the wrong airport in the correct city and landing in error country. Human error is the main reason.
  • One main reason is that most airports look the same, a pilot said, "People often see what they expect to see, even when it's wrong."

Passengers on British Airways flights on Monday from London to Düsseldorf, Germany, were shocked when an announcement welcomed them instead of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

British Airways apologized to customers who accidentally ended 525 miles from their destination. The German company WDL Aviation, which ran British Airways-labeled aircraft, told Business Insider that it is still investigating what went wrong.

The story went viral, partly because of how unusual it worked. But an aircraft that accidentally lands on the wrong airport, country or continent is more common than you might think.

Read more: A British Airways flight from London to Germany took off in the wrong direction and landed in Scotland, 525 miles from its destination

An Associated Press analysis of aircraft found that at least 1

50 aircraft from US airlines landed alone or began landing in the wrong place between the early 1990s and 2014. The review did not include rescheduling due to emergencies, such as aircraft failures or medical incidents on board.

A British Airways flight.
British Airways

This usually happens because of human error.

For example, when a Delta aircraft landed at the wrong Minneapolis airport in 2017, the official survey concluded that it was because the pilot had not flown this route much and became confused.

And the survey of a lost 2015 Air Asia aircraft found that the pilot "inadvertently" set the wrong coordinates for the plane. Instead of going from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the pilot set coordinates in South Africa and ended up returning to Australia and landing in Melbourne.

The view out of the window of a passenger plane flying over Colorado.
Robert Alexander / Getty Images

And if you go back far enough, you can find cases where the planes ended up on the wrong continent.

Aviator Douglas Corrigan took off a solo tour from Brooklyn, New York, to Los Angeles in 1938, just to end up in Dublin after a full night in the air.

Read more: Ryanair offered a book for Geography for Dummies to British Airways after it accidentally flew a flight to Scotland instead of Germany

An airline found that it can be dangerous to Throw fun at destination mishaps.

Ryanair offered mockingly a copy of "Geography for Dummies" to British Airways after its unintentional detour, just for Twitter users to point out some of their own earlier airslips.

Pilots may land in the wrong airport due to administrative errors or just because they look alike

British Airways said the reorganization was an accident caused by paperwork for the aircraft to be filed incorrectly, an opportunity WDL said it would investigate .

But pilots are sometimes in the wrong airport for an easier reason: Many airports look the same.

Flight Safety Foundation notified of cases where an error in the pilot's visual perception meant that the aircraft landed in the wrong place.

There were examples where flight crews believed they arrived at the right airport because of the appearance.

In November 2013, a plane landed at the wrong Kansas airport because the flight crews believed the runways were similar. In December 2013, a plane landed at the wrong Missouri airport for the same reason.

The foundation said both airlines fly at night and with decent visibility and "thought they saw the right airport and runway."

Pilot John Cox told USA Today that pilots can land at the wrong airport as "people often see what they expect to see, even when it's wrong."

"In some cases, the crew sees a runway and thinks it's the runway to the desired landing. Confirmation disturbances help them accept evidence supporting their beliefs and rebates in violation of it."

aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images

The US Security Council informs pilots that it is easy to land at the wrong airport because they look the same and that pilots need "adequate preparation, robust monitoring and cross-checking of position using all available resources."

It tells that pilots should become familiar with the airport's layout and features that make it stand out, and to "confirm that you have correctly identified the destination airport before reporting the airport or runway is in sight."

A former air force pilot who learns aviation security told the Atlantic how easy it is for pilots to see a track and assume their automated navigation devices are defective.

"You have these runway lights and you look at them, and they say:" Come to me, come to me, I'll let you land. & # 39; They are like sirens by the sea. "


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