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. your mom


    December 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Justin

    When you pay pilots poverty wages so they need multiple jobs just to eat, its a small wonder more accidents don't occur.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. red dog

    Who hired that guy? Come on. I'm a private pilot and can tell you that recovery from a dive is a basic teching point. I agree that it isn't just a matter of pulling back on the yoke but this is a basic maneuver and the co-pilot needs to go back and finish his Cessna 152 training before he tackles something bigger .......... with passengers in it!.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim

    I don't understand this article. It's EXTREMELY unlikely that bumping the controls would result in a downward dive. As i understand the system, it would disengage the autopilot, but you would have to push very hard and continuous to cause a "dive". The aerodynamics alone fight you back. And as previous posters have said, this kind of recovery is trained over and over and over in simulators and evaluations. I highly question the "report" or the article.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sal

    I can't understand these people in these call centers. They use a sing song type English and they are hard to understand! Outsourcing should be outlawed, but thanks to corporate greed I am sure it will continue! 

    December 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • eyelivefree

      What's that gotta do with flying a plane?? Leave your racist monologues for the redneck blogs.

      December 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dgcasey0325

    Do you know how much extra you'd have to pay for that kind of excitement at an amusement park? Well, do ya?

    December 1, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. reddog

    I call BS on this story as well. Co-pilot was probably get a BJ from the flight attendant or something. Reminds me of the scene from the movie Airplane 🙂

    December 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    Unfortunately some Asian airlines do NOT have qualified co-pilots. They use ex-pat Captains and then employ nationals to "ride along". I speak because I know.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tim Rigney

    Clearly a 25-year–old kid is too young to be flying a passenger jet like that. It just goes to show why there's reasons why America has such stricter requirements. I realize there's financial issues but "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

    December 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • theCarpathian

      Yeah! OUR pilots have to be at least 26 years old !

      December 2, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      This whole story is BS. Sounds more like a pitch trim runaway to me. Autopilot malfunctions and trims the aircraft full forward. This condition could be too hard to overcome alone as control forces would be too heavy. There are not several layers to an autopilot one button would disconnect the whole system and allow the co pilot to start trying to fly the aircraft. I am 29 and started flying for a passenger airline in the US at age 25. Age has nothing to do with it. I have personally experienced this situation on two different types of aircraft simulators. Believe me it could have been too much for one man to overcome alone.

      December 2, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. isle90

    And these folks in India are taking the jobs Americans could use, when you call about an internet problem with your server, you get a Rep in India. Is it any wonder the problems are corrected faster. Seems to me basic training shows would be pilot's how to come out of a dive of this nature. I would also think that spare pants and such were handed out to the passengers on this flight!!! Talk about a come down!!!!!!

    December 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Airmail

    I think the Captain was correct in telling the passengers that an "air pocket" was responsible for the upset. There just wasn't any need for the passengers to know that the "air pocket" was in the co-pilot's head, which was deeply up his butt when this happened. Just my opinion of course.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David

    Upsetting an aircraft by knocking the column isnt unusual, especially in a Boeing. Some aircraft have a 'cuff' at the base of the control column or a special feature that prevents interruption with the column, but some Boeings have a fully exposed column connection that is prone to being hit by pilots feet when they move around in their seat or climb in and out of their seat. Banging the column or its base and upsetting the autopilot happens all the time.

    December 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eric Welch

    From a report just after the incident occurred, as opposed to CNN's six months late. Many interesting comments.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. carl

    I'm calling BS on this story. My guess is that this co pilot was suicidal. The situation doesn't make any sense.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulaBD

      Agree totally. Something's fishy, co-pilot either suicidal or attempting to become a martyr.

      December 2, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |

    i am just waiting for a movie to release on this from bollywood...

    December 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
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