On Sunday, Air Berlin’s final long-haul flight arrived in Dusseldorf, almost nine hours after departing from Miami International Airport. Air Berlin flight 7001 was on final approach to Dusseldorf’s runway 23L, when the pilot requested permission to make a left turn in the event of a go-around. The aircraft then proceeded to fly a low approach over the runway at around 100-200 feet above the runway, according to Flightradar24.
The Airbus A330-200, registration D-ABXA, appeared to be making a final fly-over to commemorate this historic last day for the airline. However, during the fly-over, the pilot decided to pull the aircraft up and make a sharp left turn over the airport. For passengers and employees at the airport, this created a marvelous display, allowing the public to see Air Berlin’s long-haul fleet in action one final time.
Additionally, the video of the stunt went viral on social media, with over 1.3 million views on the original YouTube video, showcasing the maneuver from Dusseldorf’s air traffic control tower. The controllers can be heard gasping in awe, as they watched the aircraft fly by.
While a stunning site for many, the pilot’s decision to do this maneuver was questioned by some. The decision is currently being reviewed by the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, also known as the Federal Aviation Office of Germany.
The low pass and risky maneuver are being investigated to ensure that it was performed safely and did not endanger the safety of anyone in the aircraft or on the ground. While pilots are trained to perform go-arounds, should it be necessary to abort an aircraft’s landing, this aircraft’s specific maneuver is being considered unusual by some officials because it differed from the usual go-around procedures and maneuvers.
The pilot of the aircraft, however, only wanted to commemorate the day. “We wanted to make a mark, a dignified and emotional goodbye,” said the pilot, whose identity was not given, when quoted by the German broadcaster ZDF.
On Wednesday, Air Berlin made it public that the pilots of the flight have been suspended because of the maneuver. In a statement, Air Berlin said that none of the 200 passengers on board complained about the plane’s sharp turn, but that: “In aviation, safety always comes first. We are taking the incident very seriously.”
Unlike the standard water cannon salute, this is one moment that the aviation community, and the world. will remember for years. Perhaps this flight will create a new trend for inaugural or final flights, to better exhibit the marvel of aircraft, and their beauty in flight.
However, next time, the airline, pilots and air traffic control will need to plan ahead of time before they attempt a display similar to Air Berlin’s final transatlantic flight.