Thursday, July 17, 2014

Four AI pilots hailed for averting mishap

MUMBAI: The four pilots who brought the Air India Boeing 777 to safety after one of its two engines burst into flames soon after taking off from Newark airport on Sunday are being commended for their airmanship by the pilot community.

Capt Gautam Verma and his crew—second commander Capt Niranjan Singh and first officers Pankaj Wadhawan and Shilpika Das—were in the cockpit on board AI flight 144, which suffered an engine failure. TOI had carried a report on the incident on Tuesday. The aircraft was heavily loaded with passengers and fuel when the pilots were forced to land it without delay as its left engine caught fire. "The pilots averted a major emergency into becoming a possible catastrophe by landing the aircraft successfully back," said Capt G S Bakshi, a retired AI pilot.
More from The Times of India
  • In 16 days, 5 air misses in Mumbai 23 Jun 2014

    In 16 days, 5 air misses in Mumbai

    In 16 days, 5 air misses in Mumbai
    An increase in near miss incidents over the congested Mumbai skies is primarily the organization’s concern.
    MUMBAI: In sixteen days during the second and third week of May, five "air miss incidents" took place over Mumbai skies as aircraft came in close proximity of each other, said a source.

    However, the topmost Airports Authority of India (AAI) official (western region) tasked with monitoring aviation safety was kept in the dark about the cases.

    The air traffic control services in the country are provided by the AAI. An increase in near miss incidents over the congested Mumbai skies is primarily the organization's concern. The authority investigates and finds solutions to remedy such situations, but the job function has not been taking place as mandated.

    "AAI officials have been suppressing from me air miss incident reports since last year. They are being aided and abetted by the higher-ups in AAI headquarters," stated a letter sent on April 30 by S Mangala, AAI deputy general manager (aviation safety) of the western region to A K Sharma, regional AAI executive director.

    Mangala being the western region's top aviation safety official is one of the administrators who should be mandatorily informed about such incidents as soon as they take place. "It is high time that air safety is given more attention, especially in view of the downgrade by aviation regulator in the US last year," the letter mentioned. On May 1, AAI's vigilance officer made a noting on the letter calling for appropriate action. On May 5, Sharma sought an explanation on the matter. There has been no progress since then.

    "Mangala has been vociferous in criticizing several controversial decisions taken by the AAI in the past. But by keeping her out of the loop, the AAI officials have hindered the job function of the top aviation safety official in Mumbai at a time when air miss incidents are on the rise," said an aviation source. AAI chairman was not available for comment.

    Between 2013 and 2014, 13 air traffic control incidents were registered. On May 6, a serious incident took place when an IndiGo Mumbai-Jaipur flight, which was to take off from Mumbai airport's runway 14, delayed its departure because of which a Jet Airways aircraft that had been descending and cleared to land on the same runway was forced to do a go-around at the last moment.

    In a few seconds, the air traffic controllers and the pilots of both aircraft faced tense moments because the IndiGo A320 lifted off only to find the Jet Airways Boeing 737, which had aborted its landing a few seconds ago also tracking a climb along the same direction, a few hundred feet over it.

    Narrow escape for AI 410 passengers

    Narrow escape for AI 410 passengers
    Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh was on board the aircraft.
    PATNA: The passengers of Air India's Delhi-bound flight (AI 410) had a close shave on Sunday as the aircraft virtually went out of control and witnessed turbulent motion, 30 minutes after its take-off from here at 9.25am, from the Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport here. Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh was on board the aircraft.

    Yet, the aircraft's commander did not brief the passengers about the causes behind the turbulent motion and the cabin crew too was not very forthcoming on the matter, according to the passengers on board. Officials of the airlines could not be contacted for their comments.

    Though the Union minister told TOI over phone that neither he nor other passengers faced any problem, Atul Singh, executive director, Centre for Aviation Policy, Safety and Research, New Delhi, who happened to be on the same flight, spoke about the incident.

    He said the aircraft went practically out of control while refreshments were being served. He said the Airbus, while crossing the region under Varanasi air traffic control (ATC), took a violent turn and 'banked' left. The aircraft then became stable for a few seconds and then took a turn towards right. He said the aircraft was sinking and heading towards a 'stall'.

    Atul talked to flight commander Captain Amitesh Ahuja, who was initially reluctant to talk but later said, "I requested the Varanasi ATC to grant me permission to ascend to 38,000-feet altitude but was directed to go up to 33,000 feet only. A big jetliner was crossing over my aircraft and the problem appeared by the time I applied throttle."

    An aviation expert, Atul said he would lodge a complaint against the commander with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and get the pilot booked for the blunder that may have compromised the safety of passengers and the aircraft.