Captain Steve Freeman and First Officer Ajit Sindhu were in charge of an easyJet flight from Newcastle to Belfast when the tail-end of Storm Freya threatened their landing into Northern Ireland. Footage shows the moment the experienced duo were faced with making the decision of whether it was safe to land or not. However, Mr Freeman, who is a veteran pilot of the airline, decided he could use a technique known as “crabbing” to safely bring the jet down.
The tense moments were shown last month during ITV’s “easyJet: Inside the Cockpit”, where the narrator explained their predicament.
He said: “The safe limit for a captain to land is 43mph, which means Steve can still choose to go ahead, as long as the winds don’t get any worse.
“Landing in crosswinds at Belfast will require a technique called crabbing – flying sideways towards the runway with the nose of the plane pointed into the wind and then straightening up just before touchdown.
“The final 100 feet of the descent requires all of the pilot’s skill to hold the Airbus steady as it is buffeted by gusts of winds.
When you get 30 knots and it’s gusting, that can cause the upset and it’s more challenging the higher the crosswind undoubtably
Captain Steve Freeman
“Less than two minutes before landing, Captain Steve takes manual control, then uses the side stick in his left hand to manoeuvre the plane’s nose into the wind.
“30 seconds from touchdown and in the strong winds, Steve has moments to draw on his expertise to stabilise the plane’s movement.”
Mr Freeman committed to the landing and pulled off a brilliant move that left passengers impressed.
However, the captain did admit the situation was tricky to deal with.
He said afterwards: “When you get 30 knots and it’s gusting, that can cause the upset and it’s more challenging the higher the crosswind undoubtedly.
“When you’re coming down in a crosswind it’s all very dynamic.
“And really, you’re just constantly battling with the side stick more than anything on the actual approach with the upset and the gusts of wind.”
Although he completed the landing, it was not the last tough journey of his day.
During the return flight, from Belfast to Newcastle, the winds had increased to 40mph.
Mr Freeman kept a cool head once again though and went back to his training, pointing the nose of the plane into the wind once more.
Once again he pulled off a near-perfect landing, much to the appreciation of his passengers.
One said: “That was ropey, thank God for the rosary.”
While another added: “Just like that, everybody appreciates their life back again.
“I’m just glad to be alive.”
Though the two landings were impressive, they were both made with good judgement from the pilot, with the wind speeds below the 43mph limit for safe landing.
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