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. Frank

    In this case it's a good thing the people in India beleive in re-incarnation so everyone on board was covered.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      For some the reincarnation means coming back as a snail.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devin

      Does a snail fall to the ground much slower than other animals? If so, that's the way to go...

      November 30, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Frank


    I can just imagine the conversation that went on between the Pilot and Co-Pilot after he regained control of the aircraft,the Co-Pilot is lucky the Pilot did not strangle him.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    Indians can't drive cars here either.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • proudlib99

      LOL!!!! too funny... i got T boned by an Indian woman a year ago.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jolly Guy in red suit

    Thank Buddah!

    November 30, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      Um, I think he is likely Hindu, so Buddha probably was not listening in on that call center conversation.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • KingofFlying

      May be a Christian. Trying to convert(to pieces) the plane. A Hindu(Pilot) saved his life. Jesus was not on the conversation.

      November 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    They sure are good at running gas stations though.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. odojoe

    A 25 year old co-pilot????

    November 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      This co pilot was clearly incompetent, but it had nothing to do with his age. Even if he was new to commercial flying, he'd still had a good seven years to train as an adult. I see nothing wrong with a 25 year old in this position if he is thoroughly trained and tested. Is there supposed to be some magic age where competence and flying ability suddenly kicks in?

      December 1, 2010 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. AceRyder

    Sir, no problem (hand on chest, head slightly inclined)

    November 30, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BigBen

    Am I the only one nervous about the fact that adjusting the seat can send a plane into a nose dive?

    November 30, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevejamesgang

      Only happens with Indian Pilots

      November 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    Suspend him? Fire him? Why should either take place? It's not his fault he wasn't trained to handle that situation. Maybe they should do a better job of training their co-pilots for emergencies.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bjorn

    i suspect more than pulling the nose up could have been required to take manual control, clearly the plane had been on auto-pilot

    November 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      The only time they need to be manually flying is during take-off and landing.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • packrfan

      Yes, but I'm quite certain that taking the plane out of auto-pilot is a simple as flipping a switch.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevejamesgang

      There are several ways to disconnect the AP. Hit the trim switch (without pressing the little button on the center of the switch), push the manual disconnect (a button), move the yoke (hard), pop the circuit breaker...others?

      November 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Me

    Its real hard to figure out to grab that wheelly thing in front of you and pull back! I'm not a pilot but I slept at a Holiday Express!

    November 30, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tee Hee

    Julianuary, I know you are here somewhere. stop hiding ... oh, woops ... what's that lever ...

    November 30, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. torak

    MANY HILARIOUS COMMENTS! But I like the one best about how the co-pilot was on his cell phone doing his outsourced call center duties when the incident occurred.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. showtor

    ...too much curry must have created the air pocket.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hmmm

    what is a 25 co-pilot doing flying a jumbo jet? and a 39 year old pilot. goes to what i think of indians. smart but can't think out of the box.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevejamesgang

      Duh... 25 for a copilot? Nothing wrong with that. 39 for a captain? Nothing wrong with that either. I was both my friend and flew a slick wing Lear 24 s/n 332. Check out the average age of pilots at the AF Academy.

      A 737 is not a jumbo jet. Key word is 'jumbo'. The 737 is a trainer for the bigger ones as well as the smaller regional jets made by Bombardier in Canada.

      To obtain a commercial pilot license the age is 18. An Airline Transport Certificate is 23. And you can solo at any age! But student pilot certificates are issued at about 16 I think. I believe glider pilots can be younger, but not real sure about that.

      So what is the age for a pilot? I've flown with idiots that are 35 and 45 and I have flown in Lears with a captain that was 70 yrs old. I believe the oldest living Lear pilot right now is 73.

      November 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      What an offensive and ageist comment. There is no reason that a responsible and properly trained 25 year old cannot be a pilot. In fact, people over 30 can't even train as air traffic controllers because they need to be able to think quickly and mental abilities are already past their peak at that point. Recent studies showed that people peak mentally at 22 and begin to decline at 27, so industries such as these purposely look for younger people in their mental prime.

      December 1, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
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