Birmingham & Black Country

Mayday call heard on Monarch Birmingham to Palma flight

Air Explore - image from Andrew Taylor
Image caption Slovakian and French investigators are looking into the incident on the Air Explore plane

An airline pilot's Mayday call was heard by passengers moments before the aircraft rapidly dropped altitude.

Passengers said the Monarch flight from Birmingham to Majorca dropped suddenly after the announcement was made. It was then diverted to Limoges, France.

Andrew Taylor, who was on the flight, said he started fearing for his family's safety during the "ordeal" and another described it as "sheer terror".

Monarch said it "regretted any distress caused".

Mr Taylor, from Sutton Coldfield, said: "About an hour into the flight I noticed a hissing, blowing noise which I thought was unusual.

"It was then that the pilot came on the tannoy to the cabin, saying 'Mayday, Mayday - emergency descent'."

He said they then felt the aircraft descend "very, very quickly", which caused his ears to hurt.

Mr Taylor added: "The pilot came back on to the tannoy and said, 'we are now at 10,000 feet and the problem has been resolved, but we're contacting the aircraft manufacturer to see what we need to do.

"We flew for about another 10 minutes but a decision was then made to land immediately."

Another passenger, who only wanted to be known as "Stephanie", said the pilot made the Mayday call after telling crew members to take their seats.

"To say we were completely struck with terror - I can't tell you how we felt," she said.

"But no-one screamed on the plane - I think we were just struck mute."

Mr Taylor, who was travelling with his three sons, said: "I thought, 'what have I done to the kids?'.

"'Sorry kids, I've had my life, but now when we're in this emergency situation. If something was to happen today, I brought you on to this aeroplane'."

Apology to passengers

The passengers said a day before their flight they had been contacted by Monarch to tell them an aircraft from Slovakian company Air Explore had been chartered for the flight.

Air Explore chief executive Martin Stulajter apologised to the passengers on the flight.

Image caption Mr Taylor said the aircraft fell so quickly it caused his ears to hurt

He said: "The reason for declaring Mayday is standard procedure to prioritise our plane for immediate descent and landing.

"Passengers may have heard the call by coincidence."

In a statement, Monarch said the ZB958 flight on 24 July was diverted to Limoges "following a depressurisation of the cabin".

It added: "The captain, in accordance with standard response to such an event, placed the aircraft into an immediate controlled descent to lower the cabin altitude, and landed the aircraft at the nearest suitable airfield."

Monarch said during the exchange of radio transmissions "some passengers" may have heard the Mayday call over the public address system.

It added: "The captain's priority throughout was to ensure a safe, prompt and uneventful landing which he achieved.

"Monarch regrets any concern or distress that this may have caused."

The company added that passengers were transferred to a replacement aircraft to complete their journey to Palma.

Monarch confirmed it was still using the aircraft.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch said the incident came under the remit of the Slovakian and French air authorities and it added both of them said they would not be investigating further.

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