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Pilot ‘unfit to fly after death of young son’

A Ryanair captain involved in a serious incident during a thunderstorm was psychologically unfit to fly, and his co-pilot couldn't navigate the plane properly, a probe has found.

The captain, a Polish national, had attended the funeral of his infant son only a few days before the incident.

He had told investigators he didn't take extra leave because he feared losing his job.

The inexperienced Dutch co-pilot was entering severe weather for the first time in his 475 flying hours, of which just 300 hours had been spent in the cockpit of this type of plane, a Boeing 737.

Rome air traffic controllers were also blamed for failing to give the crew timely warnings of weather changes and using confusing phraseology during the incident.

The captain has since left Ryanair, while the co-pilot has since been promoted to captain.

The flight got lost in its attempts to land at Rome's Fiumicino airport after it aborted an attempt to land at another Rome airport, Ciampino, during a thunderstorm.

Air traffic controllers were forced to intervene to prevent the possibility of mid-air collisions, the air accident investigators' report concluded.

The incident happened on a flight to Rome from Niederrhein in Germany in September 2005, but the report by Italian air investigators has only just been published.

Ryanair yesterday denied that the man would have been sacked if he had taken extra leave to get over the death of his son.

But Irish Airline Pilots Association president Evan Cullen said: “The very fact that an individual at the frontline of a safety critical industry, is operating in fear of losing his job so soon after the death of his child raises serious concerns about the ability of the Irish Aviation Authority to regulate this industry.”

Belfast Telegraph