21st December 2016
G-COBO has a bumpy flight
G-COBO, one of Aurigny’s two ATR-72 aircraft, could probably find its way from Guernsey to the mainland on its own. As one of the airline’s workhorse planes, it has made the crossing dozens of times a week since its acquisition.
Almost all of those flights proceed without incident, but one – on 21 December 2016 – was particularly bumpy and will be long remembered by those onboard. The flight from Guernsey to Manchester had taken off at 5.18 that afternoon, carrying four crew and 61 passengers. The journey would normally last around an hour and a quarter, but this one was truncated when ice began to build up on the aircraft wings.
In what the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) classed as a “serious incident”, it had trouble climbing through the clouds after the crew had requested permission to increase their height, which would, theoretically, have helped with the icing problem.
An in-flight upset
However, in the words of the AAIB, it experienced “an in-flight upset… [and] was subsequently recovered to controlled flight, after which the crew elected to return to Guernsey. There were no injuries.”
The aircraft had been picking up so much ice, eventually on the body as well as the wings, that it was unable to reach its cruising altitude. When the pilots tried to take it higher, it initially descended and briefly leveled off. It was then that it experienced what the AAIB referenced with its description “upset”.
According to the official report, the plane rolled left by 32 degrees and the autopilot switched itself off. The plane rolled right again, this time by 38 degrees. At the same time, the nose of the plane was moving up and down, between a 73 degrees incline and a 16 degree dip. The co-pilot transmitted a Mayday call and the crew turned back to Guernsey Airport, where they landed safely.
After a technical inspection, no problems were found with the craft and it was released back onto the fleet for its next scheduled flight.