Sightseeing Pilot Surrenders Certificate

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A veteran British airline captain has surrendered his license after City Star Airways Dornier 328 with 17 passengers on board came within 400 feet of terrain on an aborted sightseeing excursion over the rugged Shetland Islands off Scotland. According to the Shetland Times, Capt. Roger Old clipped his own wings as authorities were preparing to revoke his license. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch reported that Old told investigators he wanted to show his young copilot the scenery as they approached Sumburgh Airport on June 11, 2006. But the weather closed in and, ignoring the “pull up” warning from the terrain avoidance gear, Old did a scud run parallel to a cliff and descended as low as 398 feet above the ocean with a much taller cliff about 600 feet to his left. At one point the copilot considered grabbing the controls, but told investigators he thought he might make the situation worse. They eventually landed uneventfully. Standard procedure when the terrain alarm sounds is to climb as fast as possible, but Old, who was apparently confused about the aircraft’s position, actually entered a descending right turn. The copilot told investigators he saw terrain and sea birds above the aircraft.