Edinburgh Airport pothole damaged British Airways jet on take-off causing issues in the air

A British Airways jet lost its autopilot mid-flight, after it was damaged by a pothole on the runway of Edinburgh Airport.

The incident occurred at 9.35am on August 6, 2021, on a flight from Edinburgh Airport to London Heathrow.

A report into the incident by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found that the plane hit an “uneven repair patch”, which had a knock-on effect that caused the jet’s autopilot and autothrust to disconnect temporarily twice during the duration of the flight.

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The flight landed safely at Heathrow, although the crew had to take a manually flown approach.

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In the report, the pilot described the takeoff as “normal except for a loud bang created by passing over, what felt like, a centreline light on the takeoff roll”.

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During the flight’s climb, passing approximately 1,500 ft, the co-pilot saw a ‘gps lost’ message briefly appear, however, this disappeared before the crew could take any action.

However, later on in the climb, the autopilot and autothrust disconnected and the flight directors were no longer displayed.

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A slightly uneven patch repair on Edinburgh Airport's runway caused a jet to lose its autopilot mid-air.

According to the report, crew were “concerned” that the flight could no longer comply with requirements, so the co-pilot made an urgent call to Air Traffic Control.

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After initial attempts to restore the autopilot and autothrust, which were unsuccessful, crew were able to re-engage the systems after around five minutes of manual flight.

Crew members then conducted a diagnosis, review, and decision-making process to determine how to proceed. They decided to continue to Heathrow, as at the time, the aircraft was in a “safe state”. They also requested an extended final approach to Heathrow to make it easier to monitor the aircraft.

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However, as the jet was heading for the runway, the autopilot and autothrust disconnected again at approximately 4,000 ft.

The British Airways flight lost its autopilot and autothrust twice during the journey to Heathrow.
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The report said: “The crew discontinued the approach and re-briefed for a manually flown raw data approach.

It also said that “the aircraft landed normally”, describing the process as “uneventful”.

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After the incident, a detailed examination of the runway at Edinburgh Airport was carried out, as part of an investigation into the incident. A slightly uneven patch repair was found, which was thought to be the cause.

The report read: “When the repair was driven over at speed, it caused a distinct jolt.”

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This repair patch was replaced during scheduled runway maintenance in early 2022.

Prior to the incident, the report said: “The aircraft manufacturer had investigated previous similar events and published guidance to maintenance organisations but had not published information to flight crew.”

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It also noted that the flight operator had experienced five previous similar incidents on their Airbus A320 fleet, while another operator had also reported several similar incidents.

An spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “As the report makes clear, the incident was due to a combination of issues and for our part we have since replaced the patch.”

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A British Airways spokesperson said: “We welcome the findings by the AAIB, which show our highly trained pilots managed the situation and landed the aircraft safely.”