Destination of the Week
Welcome to our second Oops ... DOTW.
In commercial aviation, you have regular IATA flights, you have charter flights, you have low-cost operators and you have Ryanair. This Ireland based low-cost carrier is a champion in cheap flights that operate out of airports that give you the impression that you are near a major city when in fact you are not. Two examples: Frankfurt-Hahn and Brussels-South are nowhere as near to Frankfurt and Brussels as the real Frankfurt and Brussels airports. Sometimes, even Ryanair goes to extremes, as was the case on an illustrous day in March 2006.
On 29 March 2006, Ryanair flight number 9884 departed from Liverpool's John Lennon Airport (EGGP) heading for Derry Airport (EGAE) across the Irish Sea in Northern Ireland. FR9884 was operated by Eirjet. The A320 had 39 passengers and 6 crew on board. What happened in the flight's last ten miles was amazing at the very least and raised a lot of giggles.
At 8 nm from EGAE, the operating crew reported that they were having problems with the ILS glideslope on approach to RWY26 (as their own ILS between their eyes had locked on to EGQB). They judged that they were too high to carry out a safe landing from the ILS approach and requested permission from ATC to carry out a visual approach. The aircraft, with the commander as PF, then flew a right hand descending orbit followed by a visual circuit from which it landed. Upon landing, the crew were advised by Londonderry ATC, who had had the aircraft in sight when it called Finals and had then cleared it to land that they had, in fact, landed at Ballykelly airfield (EGQB), a military helicopter base 5 nm to the east-north-east of Londonderry.
The investigation was carried out by the UK AAIB. Their report noted that after initially auto capturing the ILS LLZ and GS and tracking them for 2.5 nm, the crew then disconnected the AP the aircraft was aligned to the left of the correct centerline with the contradictory ILS indications being attributed to false signals and advised as such to ATC, despite the fact that the ILS procedure was associated with an on-airport DME for range. EGPWS terrain and glideslope warnings were also noted to have been ignored during the latter part of the approach. The runway at Ballykelley, used only by military helicopters and light aircraft and not regularly inspected, was found to have met landing distance requirements. It was noted that the flight crew were unfamiliar with the intended destination airfield and had not been aware of the presence of another airfield near to their destination. The ATCO involved advised the investigation that previous attempts to land both commercial and light aircraft at Ballykelly had been circumvented by ATC action. Noting that as a result of the incident, an additional alert to the existence of Ballykelly had been issued by NOTAM and would be added to the State AIP, the investigation made no safety recommendations.
The investigation's analysis was very clear. "Throughout flying training, pilots are taught to believe their flight instruments unless they have good reason to doubt the information being presented. Once visual with BKL (EGQB), the crew of the A320 were convinced that this was their destination airfield. Distracted by what they perceived was a problem with the ILS glideslope and DME, and the perceived slight sense of urgency from the ATCO, they became focused on landing at the only airfield they could see. Whilst BKL was marked on their approach plates, they failed to recognise the depiction as an airfield. Not being aware that there was another airfield in the vicinity with a very similar layout, and misbelieving the (correct) ILS glideslope and DME indications, the crew continued towards the only airfield they could see, firmly convinced that they were landing at LDY (EGAE). This was despite the distraction of the EGPWS warnings during the final stages of the approach. Had the approach been flown in IMC, there is little doubt that the operating crew would have flown the ILS to Decision Altitude and landed, without incident, at LDY." These comments restored my confidence in the A320's FMC.
Ryanair passengers are also accustomed to not having an air-bridge to get them inside the terminal, but in this case they didn’t even have any steps to get them off the jet. Luckily, the flight’s original destination was close enough for ground-staff to bring the steps by road to the army base.
The media had a field day with this event. A local passenger was quoted that he knew the flight was landing at the wrong airport. “I tried to tell the crew but it was too late because the descent was almost over. It was hilarious. Soldiers started running towards the aircraft waving at us and laughing."
Another passenger said everyone was completely surprised when they realised what had happened. He said: "The pilot apologised and said, 'We may have arrived at the wrong airport'. "Everyone started laughing and thought it was a joke, then I saw for myself when I looked out and saw Army officers everywhere. It was just unbelievable, I think the Army officers were shocked themselves (as) they were taking photographs. It was surreal."As the army airfield didn't have A320 stairs, they had to be driven over from EGAE. A third passenger was disappointed that the crew didn't think of a quicker way off the aircraft: "Unfortunately they didn't let us go down the slide," he said.
Shackleton Barracks or Ballykelly (EGQB) was a British Army base that was originally known as RAF Ballykelly, a Royal Air Force station which opened in 1941. More recently a small part of the base was used as a refuelling point by army helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft usually operating out of RAF Aldergrove near the town of Antrim. It was closed down in 2008.
RAF Ballykelly opened in June 1941 during the Second World War as an airfield for RAF Coastal Command. In 1943, the main runway was extended and acquired an unusual characteristic in that it crossed an active railway line. Rules were put in place giving trains the right of way over landing aircraft. The airfield was used for anti-submarine patrols and escort convoys over the Atlantic Ocean. At various times Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft flew from Ballykelly in the fight against German U-boats, ranging from the Bay of Biscay to northern Norway. By the end of the war, Ballykelly located squadrons had been responsible for sinking twelve U-boats, sharing with other aircraft and surface ships in the destruction of several others, and damaging many more.
The airfeld was closed at the end of the Second World War, but re-opened in 1947 as the home of the RAF Joint Anti-Submarine School, a training flight flying Avro Shackleton aircraft. It closed briefly in 1951 to allow preparatory work to be done for the arrival of the Shackleton aircraft in 1952.
In 1955, RAF Ballykelly was home to three squadrons of Shackletons, 204 Squadron, 206 Squadron and 240 Squadron. There was also a station flight with two Lockheed Hudsons, two Douglas Dakotas and an Auster. By 1959, 206 and 240 Squadrons had been replaced by two other Shackleton squadrons: 203 Squadron and 210 Squadron. The three Squadrons were part of the ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) force. They also covered search and rescue standby duties together with their counterparts at RAF Kinloss and RAF St. Mawgan.
Some Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm units including 819 Squadron moved onto the station in 1962 and the navy referred to it as HMS Sealion or RNAS Ballykelly. The runways were extended again in 1963 to allow for potential dispersal of the RAF's V bomber force. The last of the Shackleton aircraft left RAF Ballykelly on 31 March 1971, the airfield closed and the site was handed over to the British Army on 2 June 1971, who renamed it Shackleton Barracks. The camp was the HQ of 8th Infantry Brigade until it was disbanded in summer 2006. It was, until summer 2008, home to an infantry battalion - 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. Both the Army Air Corps and RAF used the airfield, but no aircraft were stationed there by 2007.
Battalion HQ and HQ Company of the 5th Battalion, Ulster Defence Regiment were also based there since 1970 until 1992.
The Army vacated Shackleton Barracks in early spring 2008, when 776 acres (3.140 km2) of land and 420 buildings were on offer, according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The closure eventually took place in March 2008, when the infantry battalion, 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment moved to Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, London. The camp was also home to 8th Infantry Brigade HQ, but it was disbanded and handed over responsibility to HQ 39th Infantry Brigade, Lisburn on 1 September 2006. The former airfield and technical site was offered for sale on the open market with offers to be submitted by 5 August 2011 by GVA Grimley of Belfast but despite receiving a few submissions the Defence Estates Organisation did not effect a sale and ultimately it was transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly who now control the site.
FSX does not have EGQB, but the attached file made for FS2004 contains a .bgl file that may help. In addition, this file contains a flight plan and other files related to this excursion. We'd advise against using the included A320, as it is AI only. The official investigation report contains some additional information.
EGQB used to have three runways:
02/20, 1,835 m, 6,020 ft
08/26, 1,698 m, 5,571 ft
14/32, 1,000 m. 3,281 ft
Files are difficult to come by, as EGQB was closed down a long while ago. The file under charts is very minimal, and you may be able to find more information about EGQB in the official investigation report. We managed to find a replica for this Oops ... written for FS2004, but it doesn't appear to work well. I'd advise against using the included A320, as it is AI only and our own A320 would do a better job - at least with our pilots in control, and not Eirjet's. Despite the file's problems, it's better than nothing ...
City of Derry Airport (EGAE) is located 7 mi (11 km) northeast of Derry, Northern Ireland on the south bank of Lough Foyle, a short distance from the village of Eglinton and 8 mi (13 km) from the city centre. The location of the airport beside a RSPB bird sanctuary has been a matter of concern for some time following several reported bird strikes, the latest being in 2009. Passenger numbers in 2012 were 398,209, a 2% decrease compared with 2011. City of Derry Airport grew at the highest rate among the 40 largest UK airports during 2011.
The airport has its origins in World War II. In 1941 RAF Eglinton air base was established as the home to No. 133 Squadron RAF which flew Hurricane fighters in defence of the city. In 1942 the base was occupied by the No. 41 Squadron RAF. In 1943 the airfield became a Fleet Air Arm base called RNAS Eglinton HMS Gannet and was home to the No. 1847 Fleet Air Arm Squadron which provided convoy air cover as part of the Second Battle of the Atlantic.
After the war the base remained a military establishment until the 1950s when the Ministry of Defence returned much of the land to the original landowners. The original name of the airport was Londonderry Eglinton Airport and was usually just referred to as "Eglinton". Some limited commercial activities were undertaken at the airfield during the 1960s when Emerald Airways operated a Glasgow service. Emerald built a new terminal building and control tower to support services with the first flight to Glasgow operating on 16 September 1967. During most of the 1970s the only flying at Eglinton was carried out by Eglinton Flying Club (still based at the airport). In 1978 Londonderry City Council decided to purchase the airfield with a view to improving the transport infrastructure for the north-west of Ireland. The airport has slowly developed since then with private short-haul charters to various destinations within the British Isles, a service which still continues including the recent addition of helicopter pilot training and charter services. Loganair introduced the first scheduled flight between Derry and Glasgow in 1979, a route which was dropped due to rising fuel costs. This route was the only route for ten years until Loganair introduced an additional daily Manchester service in 1989.
A major redevelopment programme was undertaken by the Council from 1989 to 1993 with grant aid from the European Regional Development Fund. towardst upgrading all of the facilities at the airport including runways, taxiways, access roads, navigation equipment and runway lighting, as well as a new purpose-built terminal and fire station. The new terminal was officially opened in March 1994. The name of the airport was officially changed from Londonderry Eglinton to the City of Derry Airport. The Aeronautical Information Publication published by the UK's air navigation service provider, National Air Traffic Services, still shows Londonderry/Eglinton. At that time there were still only two scheduled routes carrying about 40,000 passenger each year. 1995 saw the arrival of Jersey European Airways who attempted to operate a short-lived shuttle link between Derry and Belfast City Airport.
During 1998 and 1999 safety improvements were undertaken at the airport as a matter of priority. As the airport served Northern Ireland and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, funding was sourced and thereafter provided by the Irish Government in addition to that provided by the British Government and Derry City Council. These improvements meant that larger aircraft could use the airport, thus, Falcon Holidays started holiday charter flights in May 1999, followed in July by Ryanair who operated scheduled flights. The Ryanair service to London Stansted grew substantially and the Loganair routes continued to operate until October 2008 as a British Airways franchise, including a sector to Dublin, initiated as a public service obligation route, subsidised by the Irish Government. Soaring fuel costs have now seen all British Airways operations to Northern Ireland suspended indefinitely.
In May 2006, the European Commission gave its approval for investments that would allow jets to land and take off with full passenger capacities. Operators of Boeing 737 jets were previously limited to 80% capacity as a safety feature due to the short length of the runway. Other works included the expansion of the apron immediately in front of the control tower which would allow for the parking of several aircraft at any one time.
The Belfast to Derry single track railway line crosses the tip of the runway at the North Eastern end. Safety systems ensure that no train can pass when aircraft are taking off or landing.
EGAE currently has a single runway:
08/26, 1,969 m, 6,460 ft
Live flight tracking may be performed here.
Underneath you can download the most recent charts and some scenery files.
We have a few videos for you. There's no footage of the event itself, but the video underneath shows how close EGQB was to EGAE.
And we end with a Ryanair 737 taking off as filmed from the ground.
As was the case last week, a special bonus system applies. You can have EGQB and EGAE as your destination airport in order to claim your DOTW bonus. However, pilots who fly the EGQB to EGAE leg may file this flight twice, giving them a 10% bonus. However, please fly this leg direct. Upon confirming a positive climb rate, you are advised not to push the gear lever up, as you'll need the landing gear within the minute.
That's all for this week. Our third Oops ... will take us to Rapid City. See you then.