LONDON, March 20 A British Airbus-made
Voyager military aircraft carrying 198 people plummeted
thousands of feet during a flight to Afghanistan last month
because a camera became wedged against a control stick, an
interim report said.
The report did not say how the camera came to be in the
cockpit but said it was confident "human factors" and not
technical error was the cause of the incident.
The preliminary conclusion removes blame from the Airbus-led
AirTanker consortium, which is under contract to supply Britain
with 14 of the converted A330-200 jets in a 14-billion-pound
The Royal Air Force (RAF) said on Feb. 12 it had grounded
its fleet of six Voyager aircraft after an "inflight issue"
three days earlier which saw the Afghanistan-bound plane being
diverted to Turkey. It lifted the suspension on Feb. 21.
In its interim report, the Military Aviation Authority (MAA)
said the aircraft pitched nose down while flying at 33,000 feet
and fell 4,440 feet within 27 seconds before its self-protection
system helped it recover.
The MAA said the flight data and cockpit voice recorders
showed movement of the captain's side stick and seat caused the
aircraft to pitch downwards. This, it said, was caused by a
digital SLR camera that had lodged between the captain's arm
rest and the base of the control stick.
"The Flight Data Recorder has shown no indication of system
failures which could have led the aircraft to pitch down," the
The roughly 1,000 commercial Airbus A330s in service with
airlines were not grounded after the incident.
The AirTanker consortium, which also includes Babcock
, Cobham, Rolls-Royce and Thales
, said it welcomed the findings.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Janet Lawrence)