Terrifying moment when plane with 48 people onboard plummets 500ft in 18 seconds

Odette Odendaal
Nov 09, 2018
06:43 A.M.

An incorrect autopilot setting almost cost 40 people their lives when the plane dove back to earth, falling almost 500 ft in 18 seconds.


In January a Flybe plane took off from Belfast City Airport with 40 passengers on board, the plane climbed higher into the sky until it reached 1,350 ft. The plane’s autopilot engaged, and while they still kept climbing to an altitude of 1,500 ft upon which the plane pitched nose down and descended quickly.


The plane’s autopilot got mistakenly set with a target altitude of zero feet. The captain managed to disconnect the autopilot and level the plane seconds before it would have hit the ground, their altitude had already dropped to 928 ft.

The plane continued the flight to Glasgow and landed without incident. The AAIB came to the conclusion that the selection of a particular autopilot mode before take-off led to the zero feet configuration.

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Since the incident, the flight’s operator took several safety measures, including amendments to a pilot’s pre-takeoff checklists and alterations to simulator training.

The crew in another plane was not able to take back manual control in time after the wrong autopilot setting was engaged. In July 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 prepared to land in San Francisco.

The pilot switched to the wrong autopilot setting some kilometers away from the airport as they prepared to land. Having stopped tracking its own speed the drop in speed and altitude went by unnoticed until it was too late.

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

Short of the runway the Boeing 777 carrying 291 passengers struck a seawall which broke off its tail. The plane headed into a spinning slide down the runway causing the death of three people and injuring another 49 passengers.


After investigations, the flight crew got blamed for relying on automated systems too often.

On October 22, a Boeing 737 owned by Lion Air, Flight JT 610 took off from Jakarta en route to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang with a flight time of an hour. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked to return to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport.

Source: YouTube/TheGuardian

Source: YouTube/TheGuardian

Lion Air Chief Executive Edward Sirait said that the plane had experienced technical issues on the previous flight but those issues got resolved. Thirteen minutes into the flight contact was lost with the plane.

A search and rescue team consisting of boats, a helicopter and rescuers have combed 34 nautical miles to the northeast off the coast near Jakarta. There has been no sign of survivors and authorities are still trying to locate the main fuselage.


It is the first time a Boeing 737 Max, the updated version of the 737, has been involved in such a major incident.

Source: YouTube/TheGuardian

Source: YouTube/TheGuardian

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