Job Safety

May 26, 2009

Half Way to Goa

From the Times of India (24 May 09):

“An Air India Jaipur-Mumbai flight flew well past its destination with both its pilots fatigued and fast asleep in the cockpit. When the pilots were finally woken up by anxious Mumbai air traffic controllers, the plane was about half way to Goa.

“This nap in the sky took place about a fortnight ago on the domestic leg of a Dubai-Jaipur-Mumbai flight — IC 612 — which had about 100 passengers on board. “The plane took off from Dubai at 1.35am IST and then from Jaipur at 7am. After operating an overnight flight, fatigue levels peak, and so the pilots dozed off after taking off from Jaipur,” said a source.

“The flight schedules of pilots prior to this flight is not known.

“The aircraft was supposed to take the A 474 South route — a designated route to Mumbai — and since it was on autopilot, it headed in that direction. “It was only after the aircraft reached Mumbai airspace that air traffic controllers realized it was not responding to any instructions and was carrying on on its own course,” said the source.

“Said an air traffic controller: “The aircraft should have begun its descent about 100 miles from Mumbai, but here it was still at cruising altitude. We checked for hijack and when there was no response we made a SELCAL (selective calling).”

“Every aircraft has its own exclusive code. When the ATC uses this high frequency communication system — which it does very rarely and only when other communication draws a blank — a buzzer sounds in the cockpit. Jolted by the sound of the SELCAL buzzer, the pilots woke up and brought the plane back to Mumbai safely.

“Kanu Gohain, directorate general of civil aviation, was not available for comment. Contacted for its version on Wednesday evening, Jitendra Bhargava, director, public relations of Air India, said, “The director, operations, is getting information on the matter.”

“General manager, Mumbai aerodrome, M G Junghare, denied that the pilots were asleep behind the control column. “The aircraft had a radio communications failure and so could not be contacted. It had gone only 10 or 15 miles off Mumbai and after we ascertained that it was not hijacked we made the SELCAL,” he said.

by Manju Vayalar, TNN