Pilot 'texting before landing'

Last updated 11:34 12/06/2010

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Air safety experts will investigate claims a Jetstar pilot was text-messaging on his mobile phone just before his aircraft was forced to pull out of a landing at Changi Airport in Singapore.

In an embarrassing incident for Australia's no-frills airline, pilots on an A321-200 travelling from Darwin received an on-board warning when the aircraft carrying 167 passengers was only 122 metres above the ground on approach to the airport in the early hours of May 27.

It is understood the ''incorrect configuration warning'' was triggered because the landing gear was not down. The pilots were forced to abort the landing and start a ''go around''. The 210-seat aircraft landed soon after without incident.

The investigation will examine allegations that one of the pilots on JQ57 was using his phone to send messages shortly before the landing. Neither the investigators nor Jetstar would comment yesterday.

In October two pilots of a Northwest Airlines aircraft overshot their destination in the US by 160 kilometres because they were chatting and using their laptops, in violation of safety rules. The US Federal Aviation Administration revoked their licences.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed yesterday that it was investigating the ''missed approach'' in Singapore after the crew received an ''incorrect configuration warning''.

The bureau's director of aviation safety investigation, Ian Sangston, said the inquiry was trying to determine the trigger for the warning.

He declined to comment on whether it was because the landing gear was not down, saying there could be several reasons for such an alert.

Nor would he comment on claims that one of the pilots had been using his mobile phone.

But he did say that the aircraft was ''lower than they would have liked'' when the landing was aborted. Investigators from the bureau are working with their Singaporean counterparts.

''Go arounds'' - when aircraft are forced to pull out of landings and circle for another approach - are not uncommon but they gain the attention of investigators when an incorrect configuration warning is made or a plane pulls out of a landing at low altitude. It could take the bureau nine months to report on the incident.

A Jetstar spokesman, Simon Westaway, said the airline was assisting the bureau in its inquiries into the forced ''fly around'' involving its aircraft but he declined to comment further because the matter was in the hands of investigators.

He said the two pilots were still flying. ''We don't comment on any circumstantial information,'' he said.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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