Cayman Airways chief Fabian Whorms on Thursday blamed “human error” for a Tuesday incident in which locking pins prevented retraction of landing gears on an outgoing flight, forcing it to return to Owen Roberts International Airport.
The flight landed safely minutes after takeoff and none of the 64 people onboard was hurt, Mr. Whorms said, as the airline launched an “analysis” of the incident.
“It’s not an investigation,” he said. “We know what happened. The pins should have been taken out. It was human error. What we want to figure out is how it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. You wouldn’t believe the procedures we have.”
“It was human error and we will do an analysis of it,” he added, predicting it would take “a couple of weeks” to complete.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the airline described the problem, and said emergency services had been standing by as Miami-bound KX106 returned to Owen Roberts International Airport.
“Shortly after” its 6 p.m. departure, CAL said, the aircraft “returned to ORIA … when the flight crew determined that the landing gear had not retracted.
“[T]he flight crew conducted the prescribed on-board safety checks to ensure that the landing gear was correctly extended for landing, and shortly thereafter the aircraft landed safely back at ORIA, with emergency services on stand-by as a precautionary measure. The landing was normal and uneventful.”
The statement said the pins had inadvertently been left in place.
“The cause of the landing gear not retracting was found to be two ‘ground lock safety pins,’ which were installed on the left and right main landing gears.
“The purpose of these pins is to prevent the landing gears from retracting during ground operations, and although there are established procedures in place to ensure that these pins are removed before flight, in this instance the pins were not removed before flight.”
In the statement, Mr. Whorms said neither the aircraft nor passengers and crew were in danger.
“Whilst the aircraft was never in an unsafe condition, as the main gears were definitely down and locked,” he said, “the procedural deficiencies relating to the pins not being removed before flight are very serious.”
“A thorough analysis of the event and surrounding circumstances is therefore being conducted in order to determine what procedural adjustments and changes are necessary to prevent future recurrences of this nature,” Mr. Whorms said.
Capt. Steve Scott, director of safety at Cayman Airways, said, “Cayman Airways has a very robust safety-management system which is geared toward addressing occurrences and preventing recurrences, of this nature, especially whenever procedural issues arise.
“Although safety of flight was not impacted in this particular instance, there is much to be learned from occurrences like this one in order to preserve the safety of our operations. Our Safety Department will therefore be analyzing all the contributing factors in order to ensure proper and effective risk mitigation.”
Following the incident, the aircraft was “removed from service,” according to the CAL statement.
“After landing, the aircraft was removed from service in order to investigate and determine the cause of the landing gear not retracting, and the passengers and their luggage were transferred to another aircraft which conducted the flight.
KX106 arrived in Miami one hour and 40 minutes late. Return flight KX107 “departed Miami one hour and 20 minutes later than scheduled,” the statement said.
“No other flights were affected and Cayman Airways has resumed its normal scheduled operations.”
Mr. Whorms told the Cayman Compass no one was likely to lose their job, and that the airline’s report on the incident would not be publicly released.
“We don’t want to name anyone,” he said. “We just want to know how we can put procedures in place.”
He rejected press reports saying that a “nose pin” had been responsible for the incident, fearing incorrect information could compromise the airline.
“That contradicts what we have said – and it’s wrong,” Mr. Whorms said. “There are left and right locking pins in the nose gear. But this was not a nose pin.”