Air Berlin’s Transatlantic Farewell Landing -Daring, Dangerous or Deserved?

The pilots of Air Berlin’s last transatlantic flight to Dusseldorf airport last Tuesday clearly did not want a normal landing. As Air Berlin flight AB7001, an Airbus 330 descended toward the runway, the pilot requested a”flyby” over the airport. A request that was refused.

The pilot sought permission from Dusseldorf Control tower to make a left turn should a go-around be necessary. (A go around is a standard procedure when a pilot deems that the landing will not be a safe one). Clearly, the pilot decided a “go around” was necessary! As the plane came into land, it pulled up and banked sharply to the left.

For safety reasons? No! The pilot told German National TV network ZDF: “We wanted to make a mark, a dignified and emotional goodbye.”

Upon reaching the apron, the plane received the conventional watercannon salute to mark Air Berlin’s last long-haul service to the German airport. The flyover will be remembered for much longer I suspect.

Was it daring?

Yes. It looks and sounds like it was. This is from inside the plane:

Was it dangerous?

The pilots were suspended, the airline said on Wednesday. The Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA), Germany’s air regulator has started an investigation into the incident, a move reportedly supported by Air Berlin. Suspect the pilots might have worked out it was not their wisest landing decision.

Airports are set up for “go-arounds” but they should only be done for safety reasons. Fly-pasts are usually done by experienced pilots who have planned the manoeuvre in advance with airline, authorities and airport. Usually, the planes in this situation are empty of passengers and cargo.

This was a full aeroplane flying over a very densely populated part of Germany in twilight, at low speed staffed by a crew who had just finished an eight and a half hour flight. The plane landed safely but as an air passenger (not on this flight), I seriously question the wisdom of an unauthorised move. And that is what makes it dangerous. Breaching Air Traffic Control and air safety protocols is what causes accidents. If something had gone wrong during the “aborted landing”, 200 people may not have walked away from the plane.

My other concern is what happens if other less experienced pilots think that this sort of a manoeuvre is acceptable to mark significant occasions.

Was it deserved?

Who really benefited from this? A few of us airline geeks who like watching unusual landing videos? The pilots get to tell a story and share a video. A lot of us are sad to see Air Berin go and I understand that such a situation has create great employment uncertainty for the pilots. There are other authorised and safe ways to say “goodbye”.

Air Berlin Final Flights

The carrier’s last flight will be this Saturday 28th of October. I assume we will not see any other “aborted landings“. I am sad to see them go after 40 years of flying.

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