Autopilot set to crash: Probe reveals why plane went into free fall, almost killing 48 people Terrified passengers on board of a Flybe plane narrowly escaped death after an autopilot was set to target the ground and the aircraft saw a 150-meter fall just after the takeoff from the Belfast airport.

The flight started as usual as some 44 passengers and four crew members on board of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 turboprop plane were heading from Belfast City to Glasgow on January 11. The aircraft successfully left the runaway and reached the altitude of some 400 meters when the pilots engaged the autopilot.

However, they soon realized that something went dangerously wrong, when the plane, after reaching the altitude of about 457 meters, suddenly “pitched nose-down” and rushed to the ground, activating both “don’t sink” and “pull up” warnings, a report on the incident issued by the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) on November 8, . 

The aircraft plunged some 150 meters in just 18 seconds, reaching the speed of almost 80 kilometers per hour.

The crew had already seen the ground when the commander disconnected the autopilot and recovered the aircraft into the climb from a height of less than 300 meters, avoiding an almost certain disaster.

The crew then continued the flight to Glasgow and landed without any further incidents. The AAIB has eventually found out that the crew somehow managed to set the autopilot to “altitude zero” and this mistake has almost led to a catastrophe. 

Flybe then said that it has taken several safety measures in response to the accident, including revision of the simulator training and amendments to the pilots’ pre-takeoff checklists.

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