Pilot mistakenly sends plane into steep descent after losing ‘situational awareness’ just after take-off

This incident happened onboard a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Copenhagen in January  (Getty Images)
This incident happened onboard a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Copenhagen in January (Getty Images)

A pilot mistakenly sent a plane into a steep descent after losing “situational awareness” shortly after take-off.

The incident happened onboard Qatar Airways flight QR161 from Doha to Copenhagen on 10 January, The Aviation Herald reported.

After taking off at 2am, the Boeing 787 started losing altitude only a minute later, when the plane was at 1,850ft.

According to FlightRadar24 tracking data, the aircraft then suddenly dropped 1,000ft in 24 seconds.

 (Flight Radar 24)
(Flight Radar 24)
 (Flight Radar 24)
(Flight Radar 24)

At 1,600ft the aircraft was cleared to its next waypoint on the flight path. It is thought that at this stage of the flight, the first officer tried to turn manually, without further flight director guidance.

The pilot then “lost situational awareness sending the aircraft into a descent that reached 3,000 fpm sink rate,” reports The Aviation Herald.

This then “exceeded the flap speed limits until the captain took control of the aircraft and recovered about 800 feet above water.”

The steep drop meant an increase in vertical speed, and the aircraft reached nearly 300kts during the descent.

After the incident, the aircraft levelled off and was able to begin its climb upwards again.

The pilot flying at the time of the descent is thought to have been the first officer, reports the Herald.

The aircraft subsequently continued its onward journey, landing safely in Copenhagen six hours later.

Authorities have been notified about the altitude drop and Qatar Airways is currently conducting an internal investigation.

A Qatar Airways spokesperson told The Independent: “Qatar Airways is aware of an event relating to flight QR161 operating Doha to Copenhagen on 10 January 2023. It was immediately reported to authorities and an internal investigation is being carried out.

“The airline follows the most stringent standards of safety, training and reporting and is working to address any findings in line with industry norms.”