7th December 1997

Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway

A Southampton to Guernsey flight with 50 passengers and four crew came off the end of the runway… and carried on. It went through a hedge and ended up in a field after landing in strong winds, cloud and rain.

The passengers had endured a turbulent descent towards Guernsey Airport and their first attempt at landing had been aborted. It had been obvious that the aircraft would touch down beyond the point where it should if it was to have sufficient safe stopping distance. Even on the second approach, which was successful in getting the aircraft down, it still landed beyond the point where it should, having already covered between a third and a half of the runway’s full length before its wheels made contact.

Excessive sidewinds

The crew later described how, once down, it felt like the aircraft was skidding along the concrete surface. It turned uncontrollably to the left, and left the runway while still travelling at around 70 mph (60 knots).

It transpired that the plane had been landing in strong sidewinds which, at 34 knots (40 mph), were five knots (6 mph) higher than the maximum allowed by Air UK’s operations manual. As a result, the pilot couldn’t apply sufficient breaking while simultaneously controlling the aircraft’s trajectory once down on the runway.

Both pilots and two of the passengers were slightly injured, but everyone else was unscathed and, on exiting the aircraft, found themselves standing in the middle of a field. It was another quarter of an hour before they were taken by ambulance, police car and local taxis to the airport building for shelter. The aircraft had to be written off, as it had sustained damage beyond economical repair to its landing gear, right-hand wing, engine and propellor.


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