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Co-pilot ‘blanked out’ as aircraft dropped 7,000 ft in Dubai-Pune flight’s mid-air scare

Initial inquiries by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation into the May 26 incident of an Air India Express plane suddenly plunging 7,000 feet...

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi |
June 2, 2010 3:38:59 am

Initial inquiries by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation into the May 26 incident of an Air India Express plane suddenly plunging 7,000 feet while on autopilot has revealed that the co-pilot had “blanked out” when the flight commander took a break to go to the toilet.

The sequence reconstructed by the preliminary inquiry shows that the commander of Dubai-Pune flight IX-212 too failed to follow the standard operating procedure of putting a flight attendant in the cockpit when he went to the toilet.

The cockpit door locked as the commander waited outside the toilet,which was engaged at that time. He has claimed to have suddenly noticed that the plane was losing altitude. Realising that something was amiss,he apparently rushed back and knocked on the cockpit door,but there was no response.

When repeated knocking elicited no response,he punched in the code on the door and entered the cockpit,the commander is learnt to have told the DGCA. He found the autopilot disengaged and the co-pilot unable to bring the plane under control. The commander immediately took control of the plane in the manual mode.

The co-pliot has apparently claimed that he did not know how the autopilot got disengaged. Investigators are not ruling out an accidental error on his part as he dabbled with the controls. Sources said he seemed to have frozen on controls — asked why he failed to take obvious measures after the autopilot was disengaged,he has claimed that he “blanked out”.

While further investigations will be carried out on the reasons behind the inability of the co-pilot to respond effectively and the commander not following SOPs,the incident has come as a scare given that basic instructions were not followed. It has lengthened the shadow on AI Express which is still to recover from the shock of the Mangalore crash.

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