From a height of 33,000ft, the world below can seem a tranquil if confusing place. Gazing down through a veil of cloud, it's not difficult to confuse one main road with another or to mix up two different towns. Apparently, it's also quite easy to mistake one airport for another, even if you're the one flying the plane.
That seems to have been the case when the captain of a Ryanair flight from Liverpool to the City of Derry airport brought his plane down at a military airbase five miles away.
The Airbus A320, which was operated by Eirjet on behalf of the budget airline, touched down at Ballykelly airfield at 2.40 yesterday afternoon, much to the bemusement of its 39 passengers. The jet was grounded by aviation authorities, who ordered an investigation, but it appears the incident was down to pilot error.
Ryanair confirmed that the plane had mistakenly landed at the military base and called for a full inquiry.
It said in a statement: "Flight FR9884, operated by Eirjet on behalf of Ryanair, landed safely at Ballykelly airport instead of City of Derry airport at 14.40 today. This incident arose as a result of an error by the Eirjet pilot, who mistakenly believed he was on a visual approach to City of Derry airport."
The airline explained that the pilot had been cleared to land by air traffic control at City of Derry, but had then mistaken Ballykelly for the flight's true destination. It said the passengers had been able to disembark normally and had then been taken by coach to the City of Derry airport.
The statement concluded: "Ryanair has notified both the Irish Aviation Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of this Eirjet error."
Follow this link for Ryanair's website.
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