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Pilot's artificial arm detaches while plane was landing; disaster averted

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A pilot's artificial arm detaches while the plane was landing and the pilot was forced to maneuver the aircraft with one hand in crosswinds of up to nearly 60 miles per hour. The incident has been revealed in the August 14 report for the Division of Air Accidents Investigation (AAIB) of the Department of Transportation for the British Government, although it occurred on February 12.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the plane, which was carrying 47 passengers from Birmingham, was making a difficult hands-on approach to land in gusty winds. The pilot was 46 years of age and was using a prosthesis for lack of a left forearm. Shortly before touchdown, the man's "prosthetic limb became detached from the yoke clamp, depriving him of control of the aircraft," the report said.

The captain carried out a rapid assessment of the situation and weighed the possibility of getting the co-pilot to take control, but concluded that the best thing to do was to move his right hand to the yoke to regain control. The co-pilot would have had very little time to assimilate the information needed to take the lead in such demanding conditions.

"He did this, but with power still applied and possibly a gust affecting the aircraft, a normal touchdown was followed by a bounce, from which the aircraft landed heavily," the report read.

The report is purely descriptive and in the section on "security measures" it simply says that the pilot has commented that in the future he will be more cautious about checking the attachment on his artificial arm, and that he would brief his co-pilots about the possibility of a similar event.

Flybe, an English low-cost regional airline group based in Birmingham, specializes in short-haul flights, mainly in the UK. Its director of Flight Operations and Safety, Captain Ian Baston, defended the fact that the pilot had an artificial arm. "Flybe is proud to be a company that believes in equality of opportunity," he said. "That means that, like most airlines, we employ staff with reduced physical capabilities," he added. Baston also said the airline ensures it adheres to Civil Aviation Authority requirements and never compromises on safety.

No one was hurt in the incident.