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June 2, 2010

Pilot in toilet, plane dives into collision path

Filed under: Incidents — aerotowfeeq @ 11:53 am
Tags: , , ,

Mumbai, May 31: An Air India Express plane lost height rapidly and was about 15 seconds away from a probable mid-air collision last week, apparently because the commander could not get back to the controls in time after a trip to the toilet.

The near-miss unfolded four days after the Mangalore disaster in which 158 people died. The plane that plunged last Wednesday shared three factors with the Mangalore flight: it belonged to the same airline, the point of departure (Dubai) was the same and so was the make (Boeing 737-800, the staple of Air India Express).

Flight IX 212 bound for Pune had taken off with 112 passengers from Dubai around late afternoon on May 26. An hour after takeoff, when the plane was near the Muscat airspace, the aircraft lost some 6,000 feet in three minutes.

The plane apparently reached the same level of another aircraft, which was four nautical miles away. Usually, such a distance can be covered in 15 seconds.

The Muscat Air Traffic Control reportedly noticed the drop and asked the flight to climb to 37,000 feet to avoid collision with the other aircraft.

Air India has ordered an inquiry. Sources on the flight said the plunge happened when Commander Anupam Tiwari — a seasoned aviator — went to the toilet.

While he was away, the plane hit an air pocket and the co-pilot could not bank up the aircraft. It began to veer and descend at the rate of 2,000 feet a minute, said a cabin crew member.

The commander rushed out of the toilet, but could not enter the cockpit.

According to a rule issued after 26/11, cockpit doors cannot be opened from outside. They have to be opened either from inside or by punching a security code.

“The co-pilot was busy with the controls and had no time to open the door. The commander was banging on the door from outside and then started punching the security code to let himself in. In the melee, crucial minutes were lost,” said the cabin crew source.

The pilot eventually managed to steady the plane.

Air India officials said there was never any real danger of a collision as a distance “cushion” was maintained between the flight paths. Also, pointed out a former pilot, modern aircraft are fitted with anti-collision devices that would have alerted the pilots to climb or descend.

In line with norms, both pilots and all cabin crew members of Flight IX 212 have been de-rostered to enable them to participate in the inquiry. Four of the cabin crew members — Sanim Rane, Tajender Kaur, Rashmi Singh and Jyoti B. Mane — were injured. Air India denied that anyone was injured.


1 Comment »

  1. Air India is in a state nose dive right now

    Comment by Ali — June 2, 2010 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

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