Details are emerging of an extraordinary and frightening flight by an Embraer ERJ 190 over Portugal last week. The single aisle 97-seat airliner encountered flight control difficulties soon after take-off at 1331, local time on 11 November and the crew declared a Mayday. Flight tracking sites showed the aircraft diving and climbing and making sharp turns. At one point in the two-hour flight, the crew announced they would attempt to ditch in the sea because they were not confident of being able to return to a runway.
Flightglobal reports the aircraft belonged to Kazakhstan’s national airline Air Astana and was on a ferry flight to the country’s largest city, Almaty, after undergoing C-check maintenance in Portugal. There were three pilots and three engineers on board. The captain requested a return to the airport and was cleared by ATC to ‘turn left or right as you wish’ to the airport heading.
Flightglobal quoted Air Astana as saying initial indications pointed to ‘significant’ roll-axis stability deviations, which took place in unfavourable weather conditions.
The crew was able to recover sufficient control of the aircraft and divert to Beja, 125 km south-east of Lisbon. The aircraft landed on its third approach about 15:36.
Air Astana operates 33 western-built aircraft. The airline first flew in 2002 and is a joint venture between the state of Kazakhstan and BAE Systems of the United Kingdom.