A pilot carrying out his first solo night flight mistook the A1 for a runway, a new investigation report found.
The 72-year-old pilot, who has not been named, had just 233 hours of experience under his belt – just five of which had been in the last four weeks – when he went on the training flight alone in January of this year.
The pilot lost sight of the runway and mistakenly took lights running along the road – which runs adjacent to the airport – to be runway lights and allowed his plane to drift south to land.
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He then realised he had lost track of his route and allowed the aircraft to sink as low as 300ft above ground level before realising he was flying much too low and ascending again, ChronicleLive reported.
Once he had readjusted, Newcastle Air Traffic Control helped the man to turn back in the direction of the airport.
Once the runway was in sight once more the pilot was able to safely land the 1974 Reims Cessna F172M Light Aircraft.
Thankfully the "serious incident", which took place at around 7:45pm on January 9 of this year, didn't produce any injuries.
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The pilot had a Light Aircraft Pilot’s Licence at the time and had undergone the flight for training purposes.
His instructor also said he could continue with his night flight training following a "debrief and a long ground brief on Newcastle features and radio procedures," in spite of the terrifying incident.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has now filed a report on the incident.
The report read: "During a night flight, the pilot misidentified road lights for runway lights and drifted south of the airport.
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"While the pilot was establishing his position, the aircraft descended to approximately 300 ft agl."
"The pilot’s inadvertent descent highlights the increased risk from distraction, in this case looking for the runway lights, in situations where external visual cues are reduced," it added.
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