Women officers have to put on oxygen masks 20 minutes into flight
Passengers hear ‘panicked’ captain call for help from senior cabin crew
Emergency return to Heathrow ‘at great speed’
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:15 PM on 9th January 2012
A British Airways jet was forced to make an emergency landing after two women pilots ‘almost passed out’ at the controls.
The captain and first officer had to put on oxygen masks as the aircraft, which had just taken off from Heathrow, was climbing at 20,000 feet.
Twenty minutes into the Glasgow-bound flight, passengers heard a ‘panicked’ call for a senior member of the cabin crew to come to the aid of the flight crew ‘immediately’.
Passengers saw ‘worried’ air stewards carrying oxygen cylinders as the plane turned around and headed full speed back to Heathrow.
One passenger, a 40-year-old health and safety manager, said: ‘I know we flew back much faster than we had set off because we began descending sharply almost straight away.
‘A lot of stewards were moving about. You could tell they had a lot on their plate, with this happening so soon into the flight.’
The Airbus A321, which was carrying more than 100 passengers, landed safely back at Heathrow on December 20 and was met by around 10 fire engines and two ambulances.
One frightened elderly passenger had to be attended to by staff as the emergency return began.
The incident, which is now being investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, was also reported on a professional pilots’ website.
One user wrote: ‘Departed Heathrow at 4 pm-ish, at approx 20 mins into flight a very abrupt and panicked message came over the PA from the pilot.’
‘No announcement for a long time then the expected technical problem line was posted to all,’ he added. ‘We landed no problem but were met by a full fire service turn out, including local authority fire service and engineers etc etc.
Paramedics boarded the plane first and passengers discovered that both pilots had felt as though they had been about to pass out.
The 40-year-old health and safety manager said: ‘That moment was very alarming, and I travel by air all the time. I take my hat off to the stewards for being so calm and collected. They did a fantastic job.
‘There was none of this ridiculous clapping on landing and most people on the flight got on the next one straight afterwards.
‘Of course, about 90 per cent still thought we had returned because of a technical fault.’
A BA spokeswoman said today that the aircraft had been thoroughly inspected and no fault was found, with the plane going back into service the next day.
She added: ‘During a journey from Heathrow to Glasgow, flight crew reported feeling light-headed so, as a precaution and following normal procedure, put on oxygen masks.
‘Our flight crew are highly trained to deal with such circumstances. The aircraft returned to Heathrow, landed safely and customers continued their journey on a replacement aircraft after a short delay.
‘We apologise to customers for the inconvenience but their safety is always our highest priority.’