As 2023 draws to a close

22 Dec 23 5 Comments

It’s now traditional that I take Christmas and New Year’s off but it’s also a good excuse to put you to work instead. Recently I found myself considering these two reports and I’m wondering if anyone here might be able to shed some light on the issues.

First of all, this is trivial but I am intrigued by this case where a stone got stuck in the wheel spat. Specifically, why did the AAIB even bother with an accident report?

Second, I’m mystified by a reference to low-flying rules in the UK. This is from a military report about a bird strike. The bolding is my addition:

The UK Military Low Flying Handbook (UK Handbook) uses the Bird Avoidance Model Geographical Information Service to provide guidance for avoiding bird strikes during low-level flights. The 56th Rescue Squadron complies with the UK Handbook when flying in Night Rotary Region 5 (NRR 5), in accordance with AFI 11-202, Volume 3, Flying Operations, 22 October 2010, USAFE Supplement, 19 March 2012 (Tabs V-2.12 to V-2.13 and BB-15.6 to BB-15.9). NRR 5 includes the coastline from Blakeney to beyond Salthouse (Tab NN-9). The UK Handbook advises aircrews to consider the bird avoidance guidance during the flightplanning process (Tab NN-8). It states rotary wing aircraft in NRR 5 should remain below 500 feet AGL (Tab NN-9). It also states aircrews should cross coastlines at right angles and above 500 feet AGL to avoid bird strikes (Tab NN-8). Operations above 500 feel AGL did not support mission requirements (Tab V-3.43 to V-3.46).

I can’t make sense of why the handbook would recommend that helicopters stay below 500 feet as a part of bird avoidance guidance. The area borders a Nature Reserve and thus bird hazards are expected during migration seasons. The mission was specifically about low-level flying and so they needed to fly lower than 500 feet above ground level, that bit is clear. But the bolded sentence from the handbook still makes no sense to me in the context of low-flying over a bird sanctuary. (The fact that “feet” is mistyped as “feel” does not add to my confidence that the text is correct).

Meanwhile, I really loved this video of the set up of a 120 foot (36 metre) light display on an Easyjet aircraft at London Luton. If you are reading in email, you will definitely need to click through to see it. Courtesy of London Luton

And with that, I’m going to get my Glühwein and a piece of Lebkuchen and enjoy a long weekend with family.

I hope that you all have a peaceful and comfortable holiday season and I’m looking forward to seeing you in 2024!

Category: Miscellaneous,


  • Mud in the wheel spats merits an accident report because there was damage to the aircraft. The AAIB points out that this happens more often than they’d like, and allude to one case where it resulted in a fatality; I tried to find that, but failed.

  • Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year, Sylvia!! Thanks for all your great articles and photos on Fear Of Landing in 2023!!

  • An airline pilot’s Christmas, a poem

    On a long overnight on a trip that will have me out of the country for the entire Christmas holiday and for whatever reason I wrote this poem. I am a writer, but strictly nonfiction so keep that in mind. Anyways thought I’d share it here.

    In skies of deep and endless blue,
    On Christmas Day, a journey true,
    An airline pilot, seasoned, bold,
    Through whispered winds and sunlit gold.

    Above the clouds, a sleigh he steers,
    Past mountain peaks, as Earth appears
    A quilt of white and green below,
    In festive hues, a tranquil show.

    His plane, a modern reindeer flight,
    Crosses continents in silent night,
    With passengers, their hearts alight,
    Dreaming of Christmas, merry and bright.

    In cockpit’s glow, he finds his peace,
    A world away from festive feast,
    But in his heart, the joy does stay,
    Of guiding souls on Christmas Day.

    Each star a beacon, clear and bright,
    Guides his winged sleigh through the night,
    And though he’s far from home’s embrace,
    He flies with grace, through time and space.

    For every pilot in the sky,
    A guardian angel, soaring high,
    On Christmas Day, they make the flight,
    Connecting worlds in peaceful night.

    So when you gaze up in the sky,
    And see a plane, up soaring high,
    Remember then, the pilot’s role,
    A Christmas journey, heart and soul.

    Source: “bingeflying”,

    (I hope the formatting appears as intended.)

  • That’s a wonderful display — especially considering EasyJet is a budget airline.

    wrt the reports: #1 looks like somebody took an opportunity to warn pilots about landing on soft fields; there’s a reason bush planes don’t have wheel spats. #2 has me perplexed as well….

    Happy holidays to you also.

  • I’m more familiar with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch than the AAIB, but I believe they’re similarly constituted. One category of thing the RAIB can investigate (and which is reportable to the RAIB) are incidents which, under slightly different circumstances, could have led to significant damage or injury. It’s not just about if there was significant damage or injury in the specific incident. (Imagine if this had happened at a critical stage of take off, rather than roll out after landing!)

    Assuming the AAIB works similarly, the wheel spat incident seems perfect for just a bulletin (it’s not a full report, note) – it lets them use a topical event to highlight an issue that has resulted in a fatality before and draw attention to previous recommendations.

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