MD-83 Autopilot Failure Leads To Qatar Airways Airbus A350 Distancing

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**Update: 25/04/21 @ 12:21 UTC – A statement from a Qatar Airways spokesperson has been added; details below.**

On April 12th, Iran’s Caspian Airlines was flying one of its McDonnell Douglas MD-83 jets on a domestic route from Tehran to Kish when its autopilot malfunctioned. Meanwhile, a Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000 was nearby its fellow Middle Eastern carrier’s aircraft and had to distance itself as a result of the conditions.

Qatar Airways A350-1000
The Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000 was heading to California when the incident occurred. Photo: Getty Images

Climbing aircraft

The MD-83 holds registration EP-CAS, and due to the autopilot issue, the crew members on the A350, holding registration A7-ANO, were given a TCAS resolution advisory to climb. The Qatar Airways plane was performing flight QR739 from Doha to Los Angeles and was flying at FL340, approximately 50 NM northwest of Isfahan when it received the advisory. According to The Aviation Herald, the A350 climbed by at least 550 feet when the pilots received a speed/stall warning.

Caspian Airlines MD-83
Thankfully, there were no injuries amid the incident. Photo: Javidfa via Wikimedia Commons

Iran’s CAO confirms that the autopilot malfunction caused the MD-83 to climb approximately 400 feet above its assigned altitude, which eventually led to a TCAS resolution advisory. Ultimately, the event was classed a serious incident and is under investigation.

Nonetheless, the Caspian Airlines aircraft descended back down to its assigned flight level, while the Qatar Airways unit descended back to FL340. The pair of planes carried on their routes without any additional issues.

RadarBox QR739 Altitude
The altitude data of flight QR739. Photo: Radarbox.com

Simple Flying reached out to Qatar Airways for comment on the incident. A spokesperson for the airline shared that there was no actual stall warning. The company said the following:

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“The Qatar Airways A350 fleet are equipped with state-of-the-art Traffic Avoidance Collision System (TCAS) equipment, which automatically detected any potential risk and took the appropriate traffic avoidance action to distance itself from the other aircraft in this case. At no point was there a speed or stall warning issued. In addition to this, we can confirm that the Qatar Airways pilots on board operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s published procedures and guidelines for situations of this type.”

Behind the fleet

According to Planespotters.net, this Caspian Airlines MD-83 first joined the Tehran-based airline in May 2016. It has also spent time with three Ukrainian carriers in the form of Bravo Airways, Bukovyna, and UM Airlines. However, the plane began its deployment in the United States, commencing service with TWA in 1999 before joining American Airlines in 2001.

This aircraft isn’t the only MD-83 in Caspian Airlines’ fleet. It is joined by four other units of the model. Another narrowbody type is also part of the carrier’s holdings as three Boeing 737-400s and two 737-500s are presently in the company’s possession.

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Caspian Airlines primarily flies on domestic routes across Iran and to a handful of international destinations to neighboring countries. Overall, all of the operator’s planes were built in the 1990s. Notably, the MD-80 type’s production ended in 1999.

In contrast, the Qatar Airways’ A350-1000 involved in the event is just over a year old and arrived at the Doha-based carrier’s facilities in October 2020. The widebody also has the company of 52 other A350s in the flag carrier of Qatar’s fleet.

Qatar Airways A350 Getty
Qatar Airways has been ramping up service to the US with its A350 aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Further issues

Altogether, this isn’t the first recent incident to involve a Caspian Airlines MD-83. In January of last year, registration EP-CPZ overshot the runway on its approach and ended up landing on a street in Bandar-e Mahshahr, Iran. Overall, the airline will be hoping to eliminate any further issues in the cockpit.

What are your thoughts about this incident involving a Caspian Airlines MD-83 and Qatar Airways A350? What do you make of the build-up? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.

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