A 72-year-old pilot in the United Kingdom recently confused a motorway for a runway and accidentally descended to around 300ft.
An investigation into the incident revealed that the pilot mistook the road lights on the A1 motorway for the lights on the landing strip in January 2022. He was carrying out his first solo flight as part of a course teaching would-be pilots to fly at night.
According to The Independent, the new pilot had just 233 hours of flying experience under his belt when his aircraft strayed south of Newcastle International Airport. He inadvertently allowed the aircraft to descend to 300ft as he searched for the runway.
“On realising he was lower than intended, the pilot initiated a climb. Coincident with this, Newcastle ATC called for the pilot to climb when they saw the aircraft’s transponder Mode C altitude reducing toward 500ft,” the investigation report read.
It added that once the pilot was on a safe level, he turned back toward the airfield and with help from air traffic control he managed to reorient his flight towards the intended runway. The inexperienced pilot then managed to safely land the Reims Cessna F172M Light aircraft.
After a “debrief and a long ground brief on Newcastle features and radio procedures,” the pilot’s instructor cleared the pilot to continue his night-flying training, the report stated. “The pilot’s inadvertent descent highlights the increased risk from distraction, in this case looking for the runway lights, in situations where external visual cues are reduced,” it added.
The investigation report also read that there were no other passengers travelling onboard and no one was injured during the incident.
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