Incident Report: Qatar Airways B787 Pilot Puts Aircraft Into Steep Descent

Incident Report: Qatar Airways B787 Pilot Puts Aircraft Into Steep Descent

A concerning report has surfaced today by The Aviation Herald regarding Qatar Airways Boeing B787 last month. There are quite a few terrifying incidents recently and this was one of the near-fatal ones.

Qatar Airways B787 Pilot Puts Aircraft Into Steep Descent After Takeoff

The incident happened on January 10, 2023, on a Qatar Airways flight QR161 bound for Copenhagen, Denmark. The aircraft operating was an 8 years old Boeing B787-8 registered as A7-BCO.

The flight departed Doha as scheduled around 2 AM local time and used runway 16L for takeoff. Departing runway 16L, the aircraft ascended to 1,850 feet when it suddenly performed a steep dive. It had lost 1,000 feet of altitude within 24 seconds. And at the moment the pilots recover the aircraft, the altitude was as low as 850 feet!

Following the recovery, the flight continued to Copenhagen as scheduled without further incident. So what had happened at the flight deck during the take-off phase?

Qatar Airways B787 First Officer Lost Situational Awareness

The Aviation Herald reported that according to the information, the first officer was in control of the take-off. Afterward, as the aircraft reached 1,600 feet, the air traffic control cleared the aircraft to direct it to the next waypoint. Now from here, the problem started to occur.

The first officer was flying toward the next waypoint manually and without the flight director indications. This caused the pilot to lose situational awareness and sent the aircraft into a descent that reached a 3000 fpm sink rate.

The sink rate, which was around 306 knots was so fast, it exceeded the flap speed limits. For context, the Boeing B787-8 series has a flap speed limit between 180 to 260 knots maximum. So 306 knots shows it overshoots badly.

Thanks to the captain’s immediate action, he was able to take control of the aircraft at 800 feet above the Persian Gulf. If the recovery action was a little late a major catastrophe could have occurred.

The Problem With This Incident

There are some huge problems with this incident. First of all, the pilot’s loss of awareness is something very big that can contribute to fatalities. In order for this scenario to occur, there could also be factors applied such as fatigue or disorientation during manual flight.

Qatar Airways is quite notorious for crew flight hours and I have heard some pilots have a block time of over 120 hours. This could greatly impact the pilot’s performance due to fatigue.

Another thing is, the incident happened a month ago but the report has just been out. Again, this is due to strict company rules where if there are serious mistakes made by the crew, they are likely to get fired. You can see from Qatar Airways’ past incident when the freighter hit the lighting pole in Chicago last year.

However, I think hiding the near-fatal incident from the company is something that shouldn’t have been done by the cockpit crews.


On January 10, 2023, a Qatar Airways flight QR161 bound for Copenhagen went into a near-fatal incident where the first officer who was in control lost situational awareness and puts the aircraft into a steep dive.

What’s more serious is this incident surfaced a month later. Qatar Airways is notorious for firing crews if they made mistakes that is one of the reasons why the pilot kept this issue secret. But in a such near-fatal incident, I think it is not wise to hide in order to prevent getting fired.

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