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Tue 1 Jun 2010 10:57 AM

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Air India Express flight from Dubai plunges 7,000ft

Plane's autopilot malfunctioned while the captain was in the toilet - paper.

Air India Express flight from Dubai plunges 7,000ft
FLIGHT DRAMA: The incident occurred just four days after a previous Air India Express plane flying from Dubai crashed in Mangalore and killed 158 people. (Getty Images)

An Air India Express flight from Dubai plunged 7,000ft after the autopilot malfunctioned while the captain was in the toilet, according to a report on Tuesday.

The incident, reported in the Hindustan Times newspaper, took place on May 26 and occurred just four days after a previous Air India Express plane flying from Dubai crashed in Mangalore and killed 158 people.

The May 26 incident only came to light on Monday when the pilots were questioned by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The emergency occurred when the autopilot malfunctioned and stopped working, causing the aircraft to fall.

The Air India Express aircraft, with 112 passengers on board, was only an hour into its flight to the Indian city of Pune. The captain was in the toilet at the time and the co-pilot was unable to regain control of the aircraft. It took two minutes for the captain to input the security code needed to gain entry to the cockpit and regain control of the aircraft, according to the report.

"The aircraft plunged from 37,000ft to 30,000ft after the autopilot stopped working," a senior DGCA official, requesting anonymity, told the newspaper. An Air India Express spokesperson confirmed that the incident had occurred.

On Monday, it was confirmed that Air India has started to pay interim compensation to families of passengers killed in the recent Dubai-Mangalore flight crash. Families are being offered one million rupees (AED78,000) for each member who died in the crash as interim compensation. Other payments from insurance will be distributed later, UAE daily The National reported.

Air India Express Flight 812 crashed after landing at Mangalore on May 22, killing 158 people, including 19 children. The plane had flown from Dubai, carrying Indians who lived and worked in the UAE.

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Gautam 10 years ago

I have personal experience on a flight recently where I was sitting in the front row of the airplane and the captain was busy chatting up the air hostesses for almost an hour and a half during the flight. During the same time, one of the air hostesses was inside the cockpit and the door was locked up. Its really sad to see how lightly some Captain/ Co-Pilots take their job. They do not realize that due to the time delay to respond to a malfunction of a device inside the cockpit (since they are chit-chatting outside), could cause the lives and destroy the families of hundreds of people including themselves. The flight I am talking about is one of the low cost carriers in this region.

aarthi 10 years ago

Being the patriotic Indian, I chose to fly Indian Airlines once on Business Class on the Muscat-Chennai-Muscat sector. Apart from the complete indifference of the crew members and their complete arrogance in their treatment of passengers, they were flouting basic aviation safety rules by keeping their bags on all the seats of business class both during landing, take off and during the flight. Having hastily served my dinner, the crew had turned the business class seats into their private chatting room (I was the only passenger on the J CLASS area) and opened metal boxes and sat down like a bunch of old hags to gossip over snacks and tea. The pilots also left their cabins and were chatting up with these women. So much for all the patriotic support for India. I was appalled and disgusted at the standards followed by my National Carrier.

Concerned Flyer 10 years ago

Two serious comments and one not so serious. 1. Why did it take the captain 2mins to regain entrance to the Cockpit. 2. What ability level is the Co-pilot that he could not handle such a "simple" situation. 3. If the pilot had to go to the toilet before I'm sure he had to go again afterwards :)

aintwhatyouthink 10 years ago

Air India is a mediocre airline that should be shutdown or the entire management should be changed and standards forcibly improved. I havent flown Air India for years and will never do so if I can help it. Their apathy towards their customers is disheartening to say the least. If Air India doesnt change, people should make it change by boycotting this mediocre airline. Make them change!

shivaraman Ravi 10 years ago

It is a pitty that the pilot takes so long to access an entry into cockpit and the so called Co Pilot is nothing but a dead weight on the aircraft. It is high time pilots and co pilots employed are qualified, experienced and they are not selected based on Cast/Cred/ the community / Political Party/ etc . The solution we are passingers can take is to avoid flying by any of these flights and that is the only way they can be made to pay. Regards

Rakesh 10 years ago

DGCA should implimates certain norms to produce good piolets. Anyone who has money can join piolot school should be reviewed and some sort of cut off percentages thresold sould be put into force. An un-adequeate doctor can spoil one or two lives but dumb pilots can risk the tens of lives at a time depending upon the size of the aircraft. Jaago DGCA

Mahen 10 years ago

Well, 2 min, might be the minimum time to access the cokpit, due to security door system. but there ways you could open so quikly by overriding from the cockpit to open the door quikly. Why F/O did not attempt to open the door quikly. Secondly What was F/O was doing while A/P got disengaged, usually the warning come on while A/P disengage. with that withing 5 to 7 second the pilot have time to recover the aircraft. I have flow saveral time without A/P and it happened that aircraft recovery while flying through turbulance. but to loose 7000 ft its too much....!!!!

concerned expat 10 years ago

Piolts and copilots II I do not agree, however you are right in many points; as commander from Express I have fought the copilots many times because this people do not understand what does the Flight Safety term means, and I include most of the crew as well as the ground staff; the copilots use to leave their stations for a long, very long time because they want to "stretch their legs"... could anybody believe that? May be the commander also wanted to do the same...

Saleem 10 years ago

I have been living in Saudi for the last 18 Years and make the trip to india atleast once a year. I have stopped flying on air india since 14 years and had to take flights with many stop overs just avoid the white elephant over the years. Air India's treatment of its passengers can be a text book example of "how the customer should not be treated". Air India and Indian Airlines are just like any other indian goverment offices. where the people who pay for the service are treated with atmost disrespect and arrogance. Thank god there are many private indian and other carriers flying to many destinations in India that one can choose their airline.