26 Jun 2014

Quake-stressed pilot made unsafe landing

10:08 pm on 26 June 2014

Air New Zealand says it is satisfied with the capability of its staff in Christchurch after stress from the earthquakes was one reason given for 128 passengers being put at risk.

In October 2011, a pilot decided to land the Boeing 737 in fog despite not having clear view of the landing strip until he was 30 metres above the ground flying into Christchurch airport.

Air safety rules require pilots to abort a landing if an airstrip isn't visible at 60 metres.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission says the 68-year-old pilot, who has not been named, was stressed from recent strong earthquakes and aftershocks and was anxious because another pilot was on the flight deck assessing his performance.

Chief investigator Tim Burfoot said on Thursday there was low cloud and fog at the time, but conditions were classed as marginal, which means there was still a chance they could land.

Air New Zealand's flight operations and safety officer David Morgan said on Thursday the incident should not have occurred.

"There's a general level of stress down in Christchurch, the community down there is stressed at the moment because of what occurred. We have a number of staff down there, we've got an employee assistance programme, so we're quite comfortable with the capability of our people in Christchurch at the moment."

The Civil Aviation Authority said it is a pilot's responsibility to decide whether or not they are fit to fly.

General manager of air transport Stephen Hunt said while pilots undergo rigourous medical and psychological checks to perform their role, when they report for duty they must ensure that they are fit for duty.

Mr Hunt said every pilot must make sure they are in the right frame of mind.

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