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. jouma

    Unbelievable. If he did not know how to "handle" the situation, how come he was continously pushing the control column forward while the Captain was pulling in the opposite direction? Even instinctively, ANY pilot knows that to come out of a dive, one needs to pull back on the control column. The whole thing has nothing to do with training or experience.

    December 1, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunday flyer

      At that speed pulling back on the stick would have torn off the wings. He would need to decrease his vertical and forward speed – cut throttle to idle then level off. That takes training. Even when I did my PPL we did stall scenarios and getting out of dives multiple times. A smaller plane is easier to level off. The larger ones have more thrust and weight, consequently there are more variables to think about.

      December 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike Schumer

    "Had not been trained for the specific scenario". OK if he wasn't trained for a rapid descent, what was he trained for? Grabbing a six pack and pulling the emergency door chute? Good grief!

    December 1, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Airfoil

    He was probably rubbing one off

    December 1, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Diana

    Wait... why is this being told now if it happened on May 25th and it's almost 2011? Did I miss something? : /

    December 1, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      The report was just released.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Derek

    Reading the story, I just had an image of full dinner service and a sudden 7,000 feet drop at a 26 degree angle. People would have been covered in food and drink.

    December 1, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rob

    It's amazing how everybody's an expert because they once played a computer game that was kinda like flying a passenger jet. Didn't realize you could get type-rated by Microsoft...

    December 1, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. Susan in Warrenville

    In CNN's defense, this is "breaking news" because the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation just issued the report. (Much like it takes the FAA months to issue a report on an airplane crash in the U.S.)

    Nowhere does CNN state that the sharp descent was actually caused by the copilot adjusting his seat. They are simply stating that the report SAYS...blah blah blah.

    " The copilot of an Air India Express...INVESTIGATORS REPORT."


    (Caps are mine, for emphasis.)

    This is responsible, accurate, objective journalism. CNN is accurately stating the facts - Indian officials did issue such a report recently.

    CNN is also phrasing the story in such a way that an intelligent reader can surmise that either the report is inaccurate, or the officials are covering up for something. In fact, the way the CNN news report is worded, casts doubt on the accuracy of the DGCA report.

    December 1, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • PilotGuy

      @Susan ...Or they are making a story larger than it really was for entertainment purposes. Remember the press is in the business to collect readership and sell advertising.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Pilotguy nailed it. Thanks for the CNN-planted cheerleading, though.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • shankar

      Susan, see the wsj report

      December 1, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Marcus M

    Wait, they still get meals on Indian flights?

    December 1, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • LIZ

      yep, lambs head....raw. dont forget the rice

      December 1, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. justcallmemr

    I wonder of the co-pilot was kin to the bare foot bandit? He may have just jumped in and took the plan for a "joy ride"

    December 1, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Made In India

    Face it – life is cheap in India – I have spent many years there training people – It is a joke.

    The reason the co-pilot was unable to recover the plane from its fall is because he was busy answering an incoming call from for Citibank’s call center.

    December 1, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. SeNdEm PaCkInG

    Q- "Surley you cant be serious?....."
    A- "I am serious, and dont call me Shirley"

    December 1, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Gene

    Something fishy here. Even a private pilot would just pull up. Duh! I suspect not paying attention and maybe stalled it. Once in a stall, then maybe a few thousand feet to recover.

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

      Reduce power then pull back. Student pilots are taught and tested on this maneuver. Something in this story doesn't make sense. I'm guessing it is the author.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. mpp

    Captions are wrong on the article's picture, instead of "when co-pilot used emergency code to get back" it should read "when pilot used." Just thought I should point that out

    December 1, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • tai999

      Well spotted. Let's hope the author spots your comment.

      December 1, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sherry Garner

    ...that the plane had “went through an air pocket and that is why there was a rapid descent,” according to the report.

    ATTN: CNN writer "had went" is not proper grammar.

    December 1, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • LIZ

      "went" is part of a quotation . Take an english class.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Simon Jinx

    Indians should use a flight manual they give co-polits on Alaska – feed the dogs and do not touch anything!

    December 1, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
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