Smartwings Pilot Failed To Indicate Seriousness Of Engine Failure

A final report detailing the engine shutdown incident of Smartwings Flight QS1125 in 2019 has been revealed. The Accident Investigation Unit of the Czech Aviation Authority (UZPLN) published the report on July 23rd. Issued entirely in Czech, the report indicates there was severe negligence on the part of the pilot.

Smartwings Boeing 737-800 Flight QS1125 Czech
Smartwings completed a flight on one engine after the pilot failed to report an emergency. Photo: Smartwings

According to Aviation Herald, UZPLN revealed the aircraft commander failed to abide by the emergency protocol. The Boeing 737-800 plane that carried out the flight made its way to Prague, its intended destination, on one engine. This was after the left-hand CFM56 engine shut down.

“The probable cause of the serious incident was following the loss of a propulsion unit a faulty decision-making process by the aircraft commander that did not comply with the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) and Flight Crew Training Manual (FCTM),” UZPLN noted.

Flight QS1125 on one engine

On August 22nd 2019, flight QS1125 took off from Samos, Greece to Prague, Czech Republic. Onboard the aircraft registered OK-TVO was 170 passengers and six crew members.

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Flight Radar 24 Smartwings Greece Prague
The route for flight QS1125 to Prague, Czech Republic. Photo: FlightRadar24

Twenty minutes into the flight, the plane was at the ascension of 36,000 feet over the Aegean Sea. At this point, one engine shut down spontaneously. The aircraft descended to 24,000 feet. Then, there were two attempts to restart the engine, but both failed.

Instead of declaring a “PAN PAN” emergency and landing at the nearest airport, the flight carried on surviving on the remaining engine. The captain only informed controllers of a technical issue. He maintained that Ruzyne International Airport in Prague was the best airport to land. The plane continued for 2 hours and 20 minutes longer to reach the city.

However, Aviation Herald reported that there were three nearer airports the plane could have landed – in Kavalas (LGKV), Sofia (LBSF), or Belgrade (LYBE).

No one onboard was injured as a result of the incident.

Criminal investigations began immediately

Investigations revealed the aircraft’s fuel pump had already been running dry before the flight. Further, the first officer had wanted to land 2 minutes after the engine failure. Unfortunately, the captain, who had the final say, did not follow protocol. FlightGlobal revealed that there was a “toxic cockpit atmosphere” present.

According to the UZPLN report,

“The pilot in command did not follow the principles of Cockpit Resource Management while performing the QRH’s non-normal checklist (NNC) procedures and thus made it impossible for the first officer to participate effectively in the decision-making process.”

As such, the Czechia District Prosecution Office opened a criminal investigation. He was under suspicion for “committing a crime of endangering the public due to negligence”. The criminal proceedings were revealed to have started in November 2019, three months after the incident.

Smartwings Czech Boeing 737-800
There was a toxic cockpit atmosphere onboard the Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Photo: Felix Riehle via Wikimedia

The captain was removed from his position of head of flight operations in September itself. He continued to fly for Smartwings and maintained instructor privileges.

Simple Flying has reached out to Smartwings regarding the incident and will update the article once a response is received.

Background of Smartwings

Smartwings is a low-cost airline that began operations in 1997. The carrier is the largest in the Czech Republic and has services to 65 cities, mainly across Europe as well as the Middle East and North Africa. The Czech-based airline boasts a fleet of 35 Boeing 737s.

SmartWings Boeing 737-800 taxiing at Corfu airport
Smartwings does not want the state to acquire a stake in the airline. Photo: Getty Images

Smartwings is under the Smartwings Group and has the flag carrier, Czech Airlines as a subsidiary.

Currently, the airline is seeking aid from the state after financial losses during the pandemic. However, it is adamant on only receiving monetary help and does not want the state to acquire any stake in the carrier.

What do you make of the investigations? Have you flown with Smartwings before? Let us know in the comments.