Report: Co-pilot moved seat, sent jetliner plummeting
November 30th, 2010
03:31 PM ET

Report: Co-pilot moved seat, sent jetliner plummeting

The co-pilot of an Air India Express 737 sent the jetliner into a terrifying 7,000-foot plunge in May when he accidentally hit the control column while adjusting his seat, investigators report.

According to the report from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the co-pilot panicked and was unable to execute the proper procedures as the jetliner dropped from 37,000 feet at a 26-degree angle. The plane and its 113 passengers were saved when the pilot, who’d gone on a bathroom break, used an emergency code to get into the locked cockpit, jumped back into his seat and grabbed the controls to bring the plummeting plane out of its dive.

The aircraft would have broken apart if the descent had continued, the aviation agency report said. The aircraft was not damaged and no one was injured, the report said.

After the pilot, 39, regained control of the plane, he told passengers, who were in the middle of a meal when the jet plunged, that the plane had “went through an air pocket and that is why there was a rapid descent,” according to the report.

The aviation agency report concluded that the 25-year-old co-pilot had not been trained in the specific scenario the jet encountered and “probably had no clue to tackle this kind of emergency.”

Neither the pilot nor co-pilot were named in the report.

The Air India Express flight was en route from Dubai to Pune, India, on May 25 when the incident occurred.

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Filed under: Air travel • India • Plane emergency landing • Travel
soundoff (962 Responses)
  1. Cpt Hiller


    November 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick

      what the report excluded as he was on his cell phone doing his call center duties as well as flyin da plane

      November 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gunk

      Over Macho Grande?

      November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      No, I'll Never Get Over Macho Grande

      November 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      Talk about pucker factor! I have flown countless hours and esperienced some scarry moments but that kind of dive is never practiced on check rides or simulator training. The co pilot needs to be properly trained and the Commander is to be commended for an outstanding save.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roxanne

      @Gunk and @Travis, thanks for making me laugh so hard I nearly spit out my coffee.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harley Driver

      Simply amazing. When I was a student pilot I knew that if houses get bigger pull back on the stick. Basic control of the aircraft is the first thing you learn before you are allowed to solo the aircraft. There are new programs being taught where you are trained in airline pilotage only and you never fly a small plane and are just a computer programmer. No stick and rudder skills. For this reason it is not a good idea.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      The real issue should be questioning the Co-Pilot’s credentials. Was this person hired through nepotism, or qualifications? Many people in India get into positions because of family connections, not qualifications.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dont fire him

    i believe that it was an honest yet careless mistake and that the co-pilot should be required to pass through flight school again with the addition of this type of scenario

    November 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ibivi

      Maybe not fire him but certainly suspend him for more training. At 37,000' there are no "honest mistakes".

      November 30, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      I disagree, this Co-Pilot not has valuable training one cannot get in a Classroom. I am quite certain he will never forget it.

      In your perfect world where no one makes mistakes stuff aint working very well

      November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      I disagree. A pilot should NEVER panic. People die. You can't teach someone to think clearly under stress, either you can or you can't...this guy can't and should transfer to ticket agent. You fly with him if you think this is no big deal. I want a pilot that's an ex-military aviator. It's as close as you can get to thorough training...'air plane school' is not the watermark I want on my pilot's certificate.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barnacle Bill

      Ginamero, ALL airline pilots used to be ex-military. I agree with your assessment.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nostradufus

      ginamero.....100% correct.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jane

      Barnacle Bill really? Where did you get this fact? There is no way ALL airline pilots are ex-military. At 25 years of age you cannot have been an ex-military pilot. There are requirements to the number of years you have to serve in the military before getting out after being trained as a pilot or anything else. Or you have to pay the government back for your training. If you graduate from college at 22 years of age, go to pilot training you would still be on active duty at 25 years of age. Get serious here!

      November 30, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Barnacle. If "all pilots used to be ex-military", how did they no longer become ex-military? Anyway, I know what you meant and even in the very first days of aviation, I am quite certain that "all" pilots were not formerly military pilots. Following different events in the world, WWII for instance, I'm sure the percentage was much higher than it may be today, but that doesn't make your assessment any less foolish.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harley Driver

      B Bill. Actually about 20 years ago there was a high percentage of airline pilots that were ex-military. While a fair amount of airline pilots now are ex-military there are more pilots that went to flight schools like Embry Riddle and other aviation related schools and then flew for regional airlines prior to getting hired by a major airline and thats in the rare event a major airline is hiring.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fresno Brown

      It's not like he didn't pass flight school, this just is something they may not have covered. He doesn't need to restart his whole flight school.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevejamesgang

      The first thing you learn in flight school is reduce power and recover or if your nose is up you add power and lower your nose. Easy. And these situations are taught in school. Emergency descents are taught in the sim. The dear copilot was an idiot and failed to do his job. Fire him then "cane him" 20 times. And then go back and fire the guy that hired the idiot.

      November 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • gill

      let him practice diving alone

      December 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Seamus Wardowski

    The sheer horror of this happening is actually quite hilarious. Co-pilot moves his seat and throws the plane into a dive that HE does not have the flying capability to get out of...guess our full body scanners and metal detectors couldn't see that one coming.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Napping

      I would say that, no, our American full-body scanners have not deterred this Indian pilot from making a mistake. Good call.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Was this a tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen and his Airplane movies?

      December 1, 2010 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Co-Pilot

    very funny, I told you I was sorry already

    November 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seedenbetter

      Don't worry about it buddy. Could've happened to anyone. I think you've been one upped by the drunk idiot who managed to throw the anchor overboard on that cruse ship.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fresno Brown

      lol yea he must feel like an idiot looking back to the cruise ship vacation.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DH

    The pilot needs to be fired for lying.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stosh Ilford

      Are you stupid? There's no way a pilot is going to tell the passengers that the co-pilot almost killed everyone during the flight and cause mass panic. You do the exact opposite and keep the passengers calm, then deal with the idiot co-pilot on the ground.

      November 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heli-pilot

      I would much rather have the pilot make up some bs to keep passengers calm at least until they landed. I have a lot of time in helicopters and very few in fixed wing, I cant see how this happened, yet it did, and bravo on the pilot for the recovery!!

      November 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marshall

      There is never any excuse for lying. By the time the announcement came, the aircraft was already under control so there was no need to lie since they were no longer in a crisis situation. They lied to cover their a$s, that's it.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gui

      Even though the crisis situation was over, it really not good to make the passengers angry or afraid of the pilots mid flight.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JF

      Obviously the training was inadequate but as for the announcement, the pilot should have used a different story.

      If he were to tell the passengers about what actually happened, it could have caused panic and even hysteria among some passengers. What he said was in the right spirit but he should chosen different words.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • mendrys

      I think the 113 passangers and crew that he saved would disagree.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seedenbetter

      No sense in further rattling the passengers. He did exactly the correct thing. I wouldn't want to hear him tell us, over the speaker system, that he was in the sh!tter when the 25 year old co-pilot took us into a dive.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Inky

      The pilot may not have known at that very instance what had happened. He may have reported to the passengers what he thought was the problem before he understood that his co-pilot had put his chair in lazy-boy position.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      @Marshall – Or, just maybe they did not want to cause more panic attacks mid-air with over 100+ people on board. Not everyone can be as mature as you to handle this type of situation. The pilot did the correct thing by not informing the passengers until after the plane safely landed.

      November 30, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      I am thoroughly against lying; however, in situations like these, pilots must lie to avoid mass panic. For instance, they definitely don't want to announce that the engines died or anything like that. If the passengers had panicked with fear, the situation could have become even more dangerous. The pilot did the right thing to preserve sanity and safety.

      December 1, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. John

    I understand the report probably came out recently. But to have this in "This Just In" and it happened on May 25th?! Gimme a break!

    November 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jolly Guy in red suit

      Excuse me sir would you like to get the warranty with that computer

      November 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Fred

    Hey- what does this lever do?

    November 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      apparently moves the seat AND plunges the plane 7,000 feet

      November 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realistic12

      It also releases anchors on ships, very cool lever

      November 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevejamesgang

      It was supposed to inflate the autopilot...I thought!

      November 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ned

    This reminds me of a scene from a Leslie Nielsen movine...God rest his soul.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bill t.

    A trained pilot but had no clue to reduce power and gently pull back on the control???? Remind me never to fly Air India Express.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobMD

      Better yet, just never fly third-world airlines.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrEee

      And we thought the call centers were bad...

      November 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realistic12

      You need to be reminded of that???

      November 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      I have no clue how to fly a plane, but the wording in the article makes me think there was a very specific way to correct this very particular problem. In fact the article says that the co pilot was not trained in this "specific scenario." I imagine that all pilots know how to stop a basic nose dive, (actually, from seeing movies, I suspect it's as simple as pulling back on the wheel,) but it sounds like there was something different about this situation. Maybe the way he bumped the steering column locked it or something? Who knows. But, I'm thinking that in this particular case, fixing the problem was apparently not as easy as all we non-pilots think it should be. Obviously, the co pilot should have been trained and we can only imagine the terror if the other pilot was untrained as well!

      December 1, 2010 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
    • gill

      Oh well, he might got fired there and now flying an American Airlines flight. So before entering a flight must check who is co pilot today.

      December 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. the moi

    Even as a Private Pilot you are taught how to get out of a situation like this-it is basic pilot training!! Shows how bad the training is in other countries and how you take your chances flying in 3rd world country planes with bumpkins at the controls!

    November 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coldfusion

      Yeah, tell me about it. Luckily in this country we have well trained pilots. You know, like the ones who overshot their destination of Twin Cities by more than 100 miles and didn't respond to radio comm after Denver.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hal

    This never happened to them until they started outsourcing flight crew jobs to Americans.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spinbani


      November 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cathy atkinson to can be a pilot...just send us 4 box tops from your Shreddies cereal box and we will send you your pilots license...please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery!

    November 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • SwordofPerseus

      I think you also need 40 hours of flight time on the Nintendo 64 or X-Box to get your pilot wings in India.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. L Ron Lloyd Blankinstien

    We own air India and everything will be fine.
    We will have this young whipper-snapper wipped into shape in no time.
    A few weeks of answering phones in the mortgage modification department and he will be ready to straighten up and fly right.

    November 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mormegil

    You're kidding, right? Even a 10-year old on a flight simulator knows how to pull back on the yoke!!

    November 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      But the other two pilots... they're just fine. They're at the controls flying the plane... free to pursue a life of religious fulfillment.

      November 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandman

      Just think, if he put his feet against the panel to push the seat back. I don't know what switches are there but WOW that could be fun. He must have pushed on the yoke to move the seat. How could a "trained pilot" not think to pull back to level off? He picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JF

      The story did not say that the copilot bumped the yoke. It is quite likely that he hit a trim control – the control that 'balances' the plane on its x axis. A ten year old might not think to check the trim.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amy

    Why were the controls that close together?

    November 30, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
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