Airline Suspends Pilots for This Insanely Low Fly-By Stunt
Commercial airline pilots aren't paid to perform stunts, but that glaringly obvious aviation rule went totally overlooked by two Air Berlin pilots on Monday, when they performed a dangerous fly-by maneuver at Dusseldorf Airport to commemorate the carrier's last long-haul flight.
The harrowing incident, which was captured on video by various onlookers who gasped in disbelief, occurred when the pilots pulled the A330 jet away from the runway while making its descent, only to abruptly regain altitude and circle the tarmac before landing on its second attempt. The pilots' rogue maneuver prompted an investigation from Germany's aviation authorities, and resulted in their suspensions from the airline.
While seemingly based on a pilot's random whim, the maneuver was apparently approved by air traffic controllers at Dusseldorf Airport, who thought it would be cool to tempt fate and frighten the unwitting 200 passengers onboard the plane. The landing was meant to memorialize the now insolvent carrier's last long-haul flight, which journeyed from Miami to Dusseldorf on Monday, but it wound up prompting more way more fear than nostalgia. You can certainly tell why:
And here's a view of the fly-by from onboard the plane:
Pilots are trained to perform aborted "go around" landings during emergencies, although the flight in question experienced no warning signs that a problem was imminent. The precarious maneuver was performed purely for the sake of showmanship, because there's nothing like a pilot with a zest for Top Gun-style theatrics.
"We wanted to make a mark, a dignified and emotional goodbye," one of the pilots reportedly told a German broadcaster.
The symbolism got kind of drowned out by the apparent recklessness of the stunt, however. According to a Reuters report, the pilot requested permission from air traffic control to perform a left-turn go-around landing, but the airline still feels the decision was more appropriate for a military air show than a commercial airport:
"In aviation, safety always comes first," an Air Berlin spokesperson told Reuters. "We are taking the incident very seriously."
While nobody was hurt and the plane landed safely, it's definitely not a good look for anyone looking to cash-in on an ultra cheap flight to Europe right now. Still, it's never a bad option to tell your pilot that stunts aren't appreciated, not matter the symbolic occasion.