Plane plunges as pilot presses wrong button

Pilots. Years of training. Highly skilled professionals. So you’d think that the button for the cockpit door and the actual controls for the plane would be easily distinguishable.

But apparently not for one Japanese co-pilot on an All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight, whose mistake nearly caused a major catastrophe.

The co-pilot had been asked to take over the controls of a passenger plane whilst the captain went to the toilet. In trying to unlock the cockpit door for the captain's return, he mistook a command button for the cockpit door lock switch, causing the plane to plunge, almost turning upside down.

The Boeing 737-700, with 117 passengers and crew on board, dived 6,234 feet (1,900 metres) in 30 seconds in the incident on September 6, according to Japan's transport ministry.

The plane, which took off from Naha on Okinawa Island in the southern Japan, later managed to touch down at Tokyo's Haneda airport safely. Two crew members were slightly injured and six passengers reported feeling unwell.

Data from the flight recorder on the Boeing 737-700 showed the plane veered to the right and then sharply to the left, before dropping backwards. The aircraft tipped more than 130 degrees to the left at one point. Luckily, the flight’s passengers did not seem to realize the gravity of the situation since it was already dark outside when the incident occurred, with most passengers being seated with seat-belts fastened.

An investigation into the mishap has been launched by Japan's transport ministry safety board while ANA also issued an apology to travellers.

"We are deeply sorry for causing anxiety to our passengers," said a senior ANA official.

What are your flight experiences gappers? Have you ever been on a flight that has lost altitude or where something's happened? Post your comments below.

Quotes taken from The Telegraph.