ALMOST 100 passengers and crew were caught in a mid-air drama when a Birmingham-bound plane was minutes from smashing into a television mast.
A pilot flying the Mahan Air plane was forced to make an emergency climb after a cockpit blunder left it at an altitude of less than 1,600ft and dangerously close to the mast.
The Iranian airline was also involved in a similar scare last year when a plane flew towards Birmingham airport at just 17 7ft from the ground - low enough to have smashed into the old Birmingham Wheel attraction.
Mahan spokesman Hossein Hosseini admitted the pilot in the latest near miss made mistakes, but insisted the airline had a good safety record and staff had received extra training.
He also accused Birmingham airport's navigational services of being "deficient" over the incident.
But the airport said the Air Accidents Investigation Branch had not raised any issues over its systems in a probe into the incident.
"We have taken positive steps to prevent this happening again," Mr Hosseini said. "This was the first such incident and it will be the last."
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said the latest incident happened because the crew failed to change on-board pressure settings, leaving the plane flying almost 1,000ft lower than its instruments showed.
Air traffic controllers ordered the 59-year-old pilot to immediately climb to 2,000ft to avoid the mast, which was understood to have been in Sutton Coldfield.
The A310 Airbus, a scheduled flight from Tehran containing 84 passengers and 11 crew, later landed safety at Birmingham.
The scare happened last November but full details have only just emerged.
In February 2006, a Mahan Air flight dropped to a height of 600ft above sea level, just 177ft from the ground, above Honiley in Warwickshire.
John Coneally, a farmer living below the flightpath, said: "It nearly hit the straw sack. It happened so quickly, it was like a boom. The plane then started to climb again.
"The pilot must have seen us. We were looking after the cattle and they went mad."
Mahan Air was also fined pounds 5,000 by Solihull magistrates in March for illegally transporting four doves found in the hold of a flight arriving at Birmingham from Iran.
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