AAIB investigation to Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, G-ATXD

Landed at the wrong aerodrome, RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, 23 April 2016.


The pilot visited Kemble regularly, and knew the aerodrome well. His usual route to Kemble was via Fairford, where he habitually changed frequency from Brize Radar to Kemble Information. On this occasion, he routed via Farringdon and changed frequency there, advising Kemble that he would join right-hand downwind for Runway 08. He saw the runway at Fairford, and mistook it for Kemble; it was on approximately the same bearing, and at the same distance, as Kemble is from Fairford. The pilot stated that this triggered a false hypothesis based on expectation, and he was so sure that the runway was Kemble that he did not check that he was in the correct place. He added that he was also distracted by his passengers, to whom he was explaining the pre-landing checks and procedures.

The pilot realised his mistake immediately on touchdown, completed a safe landing, and informed Kemble of his error.

He considered this “a classic case of confirmation bias”, and that joining downwind had deprived him of the opportunity to realise his mistake in the overhead.

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Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, G-ATXD 11-16

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Glossary of abbreviations

Published 10 November 2016