An interim report on an incident in which a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Voyager A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport rapidly lost altitude has concluded that “human factors” rather than technical issues were to blame. It appears that a pitch-down command inadvertently resulted when a digital camera became jammed between an armrest and the captain’s side-stick unit.
The aircraft known as Voyager ZZ333 was flying at 33,000 feet when it suddenly pitched nose down and dropped 4,440 feet within 27 seconds, according to the interim report released on March 17. At that point, the aircraft’s “self-protection system” initiated recovery to controlled flight and the aircraft diverted to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey.
Almost all of the unrestrained passengers and crew were thrown towards the ceiling, and a number of minor injuries were sustained. The aircraft was carrying a crew of nine and 189 passengers.
The investigation by the UK’s Military Aviation Authority into the incident, which occurred on February 9 during a non-stop flight from RAF Brize Norton to Afghanistan, is set to continue and full findings will be published in due course.