TUI Computers label adults as children leading to underpower 737 Take off

On July 21, 2020, TUI Airways 737 was considered to have performed a takeoff under power. The findings, determined by the British AAIB (Air Accident Investigation Branch), concluded that the lack of an IT system produced an incorrect consignment note, which led to an incorrect take-off weight. 38 adult women were mislabeled as children, estimating that each of these passengers weighed half the standard estimate for the appropriate category.

It was a TUI Airways Boeing 737-800, registered as G-TAWG (pictured here). Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

“The health and safety of our customers and crew are always our main concern. Following this isolated incident, we corrected a malfunction identified in our IT system. As stated in the report, safe flight operation is not covered. “ – TUI Airways spokesman

When the aircraft is ready to fly, a number of factors are taken into account. In addition to meteorological data and cargo, the weight of passengers is also taken into account. These factors will determine how much fuel enters the aircraft and how much takeoff thrust should be used. Let’s take a closer look at how an IT system error led to a weak takeoff.

Flight details

The flight took place on July 21, 2020 as flight BY7226 from Birmingham to Palma de Mallorca. Guided by a Boeing 737-800 registered as G-TAWG, The Aviation Herald notes that there were 167 passengers and six crew members on this flight.

The flight apparently happened without any problems and arrived safely at its destination in Spain. Photo:

As the crew prepared to depart, they noticed a discrepancy of 1,606 kg between the cargo list and the flight plan. Here is what the AAIB report states for this particular moment:

“They noticed that the number of children shown on the consignment note was higher than expected, at 65, compared to 29 as expected in the flight plan. The commander recalled that he thought the number was large but credible. “

Therefore, satisfied with the data in the table, they used them for the take-off calculation and traveled from Birmingham to Spain.

While the spacecraft performed the flight without any problems with a safe landing in Palma de Mallorca, the jet actually took off one knot slower than it should have, which required a higher take-off thrust. For those interested in the technical aspect of weaker takeoff, the AAIB report explains this in more detail.

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38 adults marked as children

Despite a safe and undisturbed flight, the AAIB investigated the situation, calling it a “serious incident.” It was noticed “The weight of the passengers on the consignment note was below the actual weight of the passengers by 1,244 kg.” So how did that happen?

It was revealed that the incident occurred due to a simple error in the programming of the IT system, which was updated as part of a broader system upgrade for the aviation industry.

Marking each passenger as a child or adult gives the flight crew a rough estimate of the weight of the aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

The training on the program tested the use of prefixes such as Mr, Ms. and Dr. However, it has been observed that “The link between the passenger’s title and the assigned standard weight was not discussed.” In addition, the state that programmed the system used the title “miss” to denote a child, while “madam” was used to record an adult woman. “This issue was not identified as part of the initial risk analysis and did not manifest itself during the trial simulations,” it is added in the report.

These errors led to the situation, as described by AAIB:

“When a passenger checked in for a flight and used or received the title” Miss “, [it] which is why the system reported her as a child. The system assigned them a standard child weight of 35 kg, as opposed to the correct female weight of 69 kg. “

As a result, the incident flight saw 38 women misreported, misidentified as children.

TUI corrected a malfunction that was found in its IT system. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

Corrective action

AAIB notes that TUI Airways has taken the following measures to prevent a recurrence:

  • A member of the system team manually checked the flights daily to ensure that the title “Miss” was changed to “Mrs.
  • A secondary check has been initiated by the Operations Department against the reserved cargo of passengers.
  • A reminder was held for ground agents to ask them to be careful when checking in or boarding adult female passengers who are portrayed as young ladies or children.
  • The formal procedure for performing the reservation check for the executive customer service was initiated on July 24, 2020.

Fortunately, in this case, the flight ended without any complications. However, it is a good reminder that even the smallest programming decisions can potentially have much worse consequences if not detected in time.

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