New Delhi: India’s civil aviation regulator said on Thursday it has ordered Jet Airways to suspend two pilots after a flight to Brussels dived 5,000 feet, forcing air traffic controllers to issue an emergency warning.
In a major scare, a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Brussels, carrying around 280 passengers, plunged 5,000 feet while overflying Turkish airspace last week as the commander was asleep and the co-pilot busy with the iPad containing flight information.
Terming it a “serious incident”, aviation regulator DGCA has initiated a probe into the incident.
It has also set up a three-member team to review the airline’s flight training programmes and facilities following the incident last Friday, official sources said, adding the team has been asked to submit their report by August 31.
DGCA has directed the airline to come forward with all related reports, as well as the records of the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) within this week, they said.
The incident occurred when the Boeing 777-300, operating flight 9W-228 from Mumbai to Brussels and onwards to Newark, plunged from 34,000 feet to 29,000 feet while traversing on the busy air route to Europe.
As the aircraft descended, the air traffic control at Ankara sent an emergency message to the aircraft asking the pilots why they had deviated from the assigned flight path and directed them to climb up to the designated height immediately.
Both pilots were summoned by DGCA on Wednesday for questioning.
While the commander said he was on “controlled rest”, implying a short nap inside the cockpit which is allowed by flight operation procedures, the co-pilot told the regulator that she was working on her iPad or the electronic flight bag which has all aircraft documents loaded on to it, the sources said.
Immediately after the Ankara ATC message, the co-pilot woke up the commander who restored the height of the plane.
Confirming the incident, an airline spokesperson said Jet Airways has initiated an internal inquiry into the matter. “The airline is also extending all co-operation in the matter to the DGCA by providing all necessary assistance for the inquiry.
“Safety is of paramount importance to Jet Airways, as is also the welfare of our guests and crew,” it said in a statement.
India’s air passenger market has expanded at breakneck speed, but many companies are laden with debt due to cut-throat fare wars, high fuel costs and shoddy infrastructure.
In 2011, the airline sector was shaken by a scandal over a number of unqualified Indian pilots flying on fake licences.
And in January the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stripped the country of its top safety rating, citing a lack of safety oversight.
It downgraded India’s aviation safety rating to category two from category one, putting it in the company of such countries as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Indonesia.