An aeroplane carrying 61 passengers and four crew is believed to have been just seconds away from crashing into the Runcorn Bridge last summer.
A warning alert blared in the cockpit of the Flybe flight from the Isle of Man after the pilot descended into a collision course with the structure.
The autopilot was disengaged when the co-pilot prepared to land the Dash 8 turboprop aircraft at 9.07am on Saturday, June 1, 2013.
As he approached the 285ft tall bridge, the plane’s ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) sounded.
Documents revealed the plane was descending at 2,000 feet per minute and the alert was made at just 894ft.
A bulletin by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), which investigates serious air incidents, said: “Potential conflict with terrain or an obstacle results in the EGWPS providing a visual and audio caution or warning alert.
“The obstacle concerned in the case was not positively identified but was possibly the Runcorn Bridge.”
The report added that the flight crew took ‘appropriate action’ to correct the danger and made a safe landing.
Flybe said actions had since been taken to improve safety.
A company spokesman said: “Flybe confirms that safety of its passengers and crew is its number one priority.
“The event highlighted in the AAIB report was thoroughly investigated by our own investigators and through correspondence with the AAIB.
“Both parties concluded that at no time was the safety of the flight compromised; however, in light of the event, and despite the AAIB making no recommendations, Flybe has taken a number of actions to further improve safety.”
The incident was documented in reports which airlines are legally-bound to submit to the industry watchdog, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The bridge drama was among a catalogue of safety scares – including blinding laser attacks on pilots, passenger violence and mayday alerts – involving planes leaving and landing at Liverpool John Lennon Airport in 2013.
The CAA said the open culture of reporting incidents made flying in the UK ‘extremely safe’.
Town council chairman allays fears
The chairman of Frodsham Town Council – who is a professional airline pilot – played down concerns about the plane’s near miss with the Runcorn Bridge in June.
Cllr Mark Warren said: “In actual fact, in many circumstances in commercial aviation you’re mere seconds away from a lot of things happening at any given time – as you are when driving a car down to the shops.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean you or the passengers are in any sort of imminent danger, but to use the car analogy again, it is a little bit like a reversing sensor beeping – it gives greater awareness to the nearest threats, and if repeatedly ignored will ultimately tell you that without immediate corrective action, something bad will probably happen,” he said.
CWaC and Frodsham town councillor Andrew Dawson said: “We have two airports within 30 minutes’ travel time – so we do see plenty of aircraft in the skies!
“We also hear them from time to time too. Having read the AAIB comments on the Flybe near miss approaching Liverpool I am reassured that they consider the approach to Liverpool airport to be safe.”