Moment pilot lands at one of most challenging airports in the world

Heart-stopping moment pilot struggles to land at one of the world’s most challenging airports with seconds to spare before the runway appears behind clouds in eye-opening new easyJet series

  • Eye-opening new easyJet: Inside the cockpit series looks behind the scenes
  • First episode captain Brij Kotecha tasked with getting 162 passengers Innsbruck
  • Austrian ‘cat C’ airport surrounded by 8000 feet mountains & extreme weather 
  • It’s one of few in world with the rating and needs specially qualified pilots 
  • Brij almost aborts the landing before runway comes into vision in final seconds

An eye-opening new series has captured the heart-stopping moment a pilot has just seconds to decide whether to land a plane on one of the world’s toughest runways.

In the first episode of ITV’s new easyJet: Inside the cockpit series, captain Brij Kotecha is tasked with getting 162 passengers to Innsbruck, in the Austrian Alps, in the depths of winter. 

Surrounded by 8000 feet high mountains and whipped by gailforce winds, Innsbruck airport is rated category C along with only a handful of airports in the world with this rating, marking them out as the hardest airports in the world to land. 

Only 140 out of 4000 Easyjet pilots have the specific qualification needed to land here, and in nail-biting footage the episode sees Brij deliberating whether to land the plane – with just seconds to spare before the runway appears in vision behind a blanket of clouds.

In the first episode of ITV’s new easyJet: Inside the cockpit series, captain Brij Kotecha, seen right, is tasked with getting 162 passengers to Innsbruck, in the Austrian Alps, in the depths of winter

Surrounded by 8000 feet high mountains and whipped by gailforce winds Innsbruck airport is rated category C and only a handful of airports in the world with this rating, marking them out as the hardest airports in the world to land

Brij admits: ‘After 11000 hours of flying and more than a year of my life up in the air I still get just as excited.

‘For me Innsbruck is the ultimate place to land from professional point of view it’s challenging from a personal point of view it’s really good fun.

‘It’s not frightening from our point of view as we’re trained for it but from the passenger’s point of view it can be and I can actually sometime hear them screaming.’  

Brij is seen briefing his team, explaining that the conditions are extremely snowy, which is great for passengers, but not so much for the crew.

Only 140 out of 4000 Easyjet pilots have the specific qualification needed to land here, and in nail-biting footage the episode sees Brij deliberating whether to land the plane

He decides whether to go ahead with the landing with just seconds to spare before the runway appears in vision behind a blanket of clouds

‘It makes it more challenging for us in terms of threat and area management today, a go-around [an aborted landing] could happen’. 

Discussing a possible diversion with his co-pilot, they agree on nearby Cologne as a second option – however this would mean providing a seven-hour coach journey to Austria for passengers.  

He admits: ‘You may often not see what you want to until the decision point and you can’t get it wrong.  

As they make their descent extreme clouds mean low visibility and they are unable to locate the runway. 

As they make their descent extreme clouds mean low visibility and they are unable to locate the runway

Brij needs the cloud blanket to clear so he can spot three vital landmarks, usually visible, in the final seconds before he finds the runway, pictured

‘Absolutely nothing!’ Brij exclaims, straining his eyes to see something as they make their way towards the runway guided by the compass system.

He adds: ‘Flying into Innsbruck has a higher level of risk and you’re relying on your first officer to spot anything that might be out of my peripheral vision.

Brij needs the cloud blanket to clear so he can spot three vital landmarks, usually visible, in the final seconds. His landmarks include a block of flats on the east side, then a set of strobe lights called the rabbits which guide them towards the runway.

Flying blind at 150mph he has to rely on his instruments and training to navigate 1000 ft high mountains and hefty tailwinds. 

His landmarks include a block of flats on the east side, then a set of strobe lights called the rabbits which guide them towards the runway, pictured

Brij is seen briefing his team, explaining that the conditions are extremely snowy in Innsbruck, seen above,  which is great for passengers, but not so much for the crew

Only 2000 ft above ground he has to make a decision on whether it’s safe to make the approach, and he admits it crosses his mind to abort. 

‘In the depths of winter you will not see what you want to until the decision point in the final seconds and at that point your adrenaline is going,’ he says.

With seconds to spare the flats and then the strobes come into view – but the runway is still nowhere to be seen.

Brij has 10 seconds to make his decision, and in the final seconds the runway comes into view – and he manages to gain control and land safely.

‘The final forty seconds of a flight are always intense’, Brij reveals, and if he lands he still has to manage to get the 6 tonnes of plane to stop before the end of the icy runway.  

easyJet: Inside the cockpit airs on Thursdays at 9pm 

Brij admits: ‘After 11000 hours of flying and more than a year of my life up in the air I still get just as excited – from the passenger’s point of view it can be and I can actually sometime hear them screaming when we land at Innsbruck.’

‘The final forty seconds of a flight are always intense’, Brij reveals in tonight’s episode

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