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. Amuthan

    After the pilot, 39, regained control of the plane, he told passengers, who were in the middle of a meal when the jet plunged,

    >> How come the passenger's food from the try table didn't fell off when they aircraft was descending at an angle of 26 degree?

    The aviation agency report concluded that the 25-year-old co-pilot had not been trained in the specific scenario.

    >> Do they mean adjusting the pilot seat while flying? HA HA..

    Incredible Air India Express!!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jared

    How come the plane wasn't evacuated during the descent?

    December 1, 2010 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • bigmart

      At 37,000 ft where are they going to go

      December 1, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Shirley Nielsen

      They couldn't get the screen door opened

      December 1, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    Not trained in the procedure? Had the co-pilot been trained in movin his seat?!!!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
    • TX pilot

      He forgot the standard butt wiggle test to make sure the seat rails were latched. :-).

      December 1, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Richard

    As a pilot this story does not make any sense. The pilot was never trained to handle a steep dive? Come on.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Ding

      he was son in law of indian aviation minister... relatives of government officials dont need any training.. they get jobs

      December 1, 2010 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      This story is not qualified to be a pilot. Your sentence structure, however, qualifies as dangling.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. OLD AME

    Boy,it's a good thing these planes arn't equiped with ejection seats.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. JER

    Does anyone still know the difference between "your" and "you're"?

    December 1, 2010 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan in Warrenville

      No, JER, you and I are the last ones. Also advice/advise, lead/led, loose/lose...and I could go on.

      December 1, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      It's safer this way. Knowledge is power. Next thing you know, they'll assert that knowledge of the distinction qualifies them to fly a plane.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. ME

    This is terrifying! It should not be so easy to accidentally bump the controls and create a deadly situation. And, I'm confused as to why the copilot was not trained to fix the situation. I don't fault the co-pilot for bumping the controls. That was an innocent move that become dangerous due to poor design, but I do fault him for not knowing how to do his job correctly. Why would any airline hire a pilot who is not completely trained to do such an important job? I hope this airline gets their act together and doesn't let this copilot, or any other poorly trained pilot, fly again until they are completely prepared.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      I was surprised by that part of the story and can only think it is lacking details. On the older model 737's you have to press a small button on the column. You can't just touch the column.. Although I think the autopilot does disengage if you move the column far forward or back, but that would need to be more than just a bump.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • TX pilot

      The press has over-simplified and sensationalized this story.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunday flyer

      I think he may have been trying to switch seats and tripped or something, fell back on the column.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cook Meister

    I'm not buying any of this. "Bumped the controls and couldn't recover" my eye! Clearly, as soon as the captain went to the crapper, the copilot fell asleep (crew rest violation involving alcohol and lack of sleep?). It doesn't take long to get a good nose-down angle going. They're lucky to be alive.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      The plane is on auto pilot for most of the flight. The believe the ap disengages if you move the column far enough in one direction.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. vanest

    Sounds like the "co-pilot" wasn't trained at all. Maybe he was there to for appearances only.
    Handling a steep dive is basic training. Going into a panic means that he wasn't comfortable at all with the maneuver. In that case he shouldn't even have a commercial pilot's license.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. HPNIII

    I can see new manual update: Flight simulation number 426 – what to do when you are adjusting your seat and slam the controls forward placing you in steep dive with your face against the windshield.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunday flyer

      Maybe they should put that in as a scenario – The Indian Express Nose Dive Test. You have 2 minutes to prove your skills – The pilot in the bathroom could be a cheat. Clock is ticking and the controls are sticky, the windshield is covered with dinner flying in from the main cabin. The flight attendent is also glued to one side of the windshield screaming her head decide what to do first: put on the oxygen mask, or take the controls or stop her screaming. In desperation you lower the landing gear..and the wheels rip right off and you think ... less weight means less of a thud.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. robert

    system fault- they should move to Android .

    December 1, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. rodriguez

    That's a VERY BIG MISTAKE.. It could of cost lives and why would Air India put a Poilet in the air that doesn't have proper training.. These Airlines company don't care about safety, they only care about money...HELL NO.... FIRE THE POILET THAT MADE THE MISTAKE AND THE ONE THAT FIX THE PROBLEM GETS TO KEEP HIS JOB...(( AND BY THE WAY,,,, THE TSA IS IN AMERICA AND NOT IN INDIA.. THIS IS NOT THEIR FAULTS))

    December 1, 2010 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      "It could *have* cost lives"

      December 1, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      "could of", "should of"? the number of times you see it in comments tells us that this is no typo.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. robert

    numbers :

    they were flying aprx 900 Km/h . They were 11 Km in the air (37000 Feet) .

    Their vertical speed was = 900 X sin 26 = ~400 km/H

    That means 11/400 X 60 = in 1.5 Minutes at this speed they would crash .

    So the other pilot came back in less than 1.5 minutes from the time the plane start diving – good thing he wasn't very far.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Uncle Beasley

      The curry made him hurry.

      December 1, 2010 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • FellowMathGuy

      Excellent analysis Robert. I suspect the press has this story wrong in some way.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • tomz

      I agree with your math using the given data, but I think the time in minutes would be a bit faster. The major unknown is whether or not it was an African or European swallow. Unless it was 2, holding the coconut between the 2 of them.

      But without knowing this, your estimate of 1.5 minutes is correct.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • jimg45

      It was all down hill and it took 1.5 minutes?

      December 1, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. kevikom

    He did not know how to respond to a plane in a dive???? I'm not even a pilot but I would guess, you pull back on the control column. I just asked my 6 year old how to pull a plane out of dive and she said"Don't you just pull back on the stick like they do in the movies?"

    December 1, 2010 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      Throttle to idle first otherwise you rip of the wings.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. 1scooman

    When I was a flight attendant, we had to divert from landing at LGW because the DC-10 Capt. was not qualified to land in foggy weather.

    December 1, 2010 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Not all that uncommon based on my experience scheduling for a charter company.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • PilotGut

      Then he probably wasn't CAT 3 certified for 0/0 landing.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      What airline was that? If you can't say, was it a US airline? Charter or not? Thanks.

      December 1, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
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