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Airline Pilot Buzzes Tower Top Gun Style

Posted by bvalaw on November 6, 2017

In a move that had everyone shaking heads and thinking that someone has seen Top Gun too many times, an Air Berlin pilot elected to do a fly-by of the airport tower.   The fly-by involved a close approach on landing, then pulling up quickly while banking sharply so as to closely buzz the tower before coming in for a second approach. While performing this stunt, there were over 200 passengers on board. The flight, an Airbus A330, originated in Miami and was on final approach for landing in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Pilots are trained for such a procedure, but they are generally limited to safety or operational issues. Pilots do not make a choice to perform them as it presents an increase in risk to passengers and others nearby. It seems to have taken airport employees by surprise. The photographs are outright frightening.

Some news outlets are reporting that passengers were screaming in horror, no doubt thinking they were about to plunge into the tower.  Unfortunately, under the Montreal Convention (which governs international flights), passengers may only recover for physical injuries and emotional injuries (or mental anguish) that arise out of those physical injuries.   Pure emotional distress is not recoverable. So, no matter how much passengers feared for their lives over this decision, no damages are recoverable for that distress.

So what was the pilot possibly thinking? He says that he intended it as a goodbye, as Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy and this was its final long haul flight. Meanwhile, the pilot has been suspended and authorities and Air Berlin have launched an investigation.  “Hey Mav, you know the name of that truck driving school?  Truck Master I think it is.  I might need that.”  Goose – Top Gun.