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. Ronboe

    And why did the Egyptian co-pilot keep yelling ali aqubar.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. eileen

    Stupid Indians. These are the people that are taking jobs away from America.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Born in Kenya

      Actually Indians are very very well educated.Far more than us . We in America have about a 30% high school drop out rate (50% in NYC and DC) Indian's did not take our jobs, Unions and American politicians gave them away. Quite simple, they are smart and us ...well, not so smart. We have the teachers unions, they have an education, we have labor unions, they have usable skills. We have 99 weeks unemployment checks , they have a desire to succeed . We used to be like them, but now we're not ,we're like us.

      December 2, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Maybe if you were smarter than the Indians, you could keep a job. Sounds like you might have to get some education yourself and not be such an ignorant ass.

      December 4, 2010 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Abu

    Air pocket. Oh yeah, that makes sense.

    December 2, 2010 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Wilbur Post

    Cloud cows they were avoiding should have been the 'reason'.

    December 2, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. JIM

    George Bush somehow had a hand in this plane mishap

    December 2, 2010 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. shawn graves

    It seems to me the Quality of Pilots and Co-Pilots have been brought to an all-time low! Not that it has always been that high to begin with. But if the Co-pilot didin't know what to do then he or she shouldn't be in that seat and in control of the plane! Either re-train the co-pilot or fire them. To many lives have been lost due to pilot error and something has got to give.

    December 2, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lioness

    Anybody know for a fact (not speculation) what happened to the copilot (did he get fired?)
    If it's true he panicked, then he doesn't have what it takes mentally to handle emergencies and thus to be a pilot, though it makes me a little sorry to say that, and I hope he finds a new career without much trouble. (One that doesn't put lives in his hands.)
    If, however, he was suicidal, he should be given psychiatric help but also be charged with attempted murder.

    December 2, 2010 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. Born in Kenya

    International flight ,co pilot is 25 years old and poorly trained. what do you want for 40,000 rupees a year.

    December 2, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mike M

    I'm a pilot and I wasn't born yesterday. This co-pi's story is a fairy tale. My guess is that he was sound asleep, sloughed in his seat pushing up against the column which disengaged the auto-pilot and commanded the dive while he continued snoring away. What people generally do not know is that when an AP is disengaged – NOTHING 'happens'! The AP flies the trim controls so if it disengages the plane is perfectly trimmed for straight/level flight (assuming that was the mode it was in as it would be enroute).

    December 2, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. spaceman

    The co-pilot tried to call tech support but he was put on hold for half an hour and couldn't understand the guy when he answered anyway.

    December 2, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jason

    Reduce throttle, ease out. Don't see what the problem is?

    JJ The Fed

    December 2, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. 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. I posted this above but thought I would post it again as some pilots talking on here have never operated a complex passenger jet. To relate it to the pilots that have not, trim your 152 Cessna full forward and fly it like that without being able to trim it back. Then multiply those control forces by the difference in size of the aircraft and you may be able to grasp that the guy may have been well trained and qualified just simply not physically able to overcome the situation.

    December 2, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jan

    Same thing happens to me in my Buick.

    December 2, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Thomas

    "he accidentally hit the control column while adjusting his seat"
    To move the control column or the foot pedals a fixed seat is necessary to push back against. If the seat lock fails or is released, as here, the pilot cannot effectively move the stick or pedals because the seat is moving – nothing to push back on. This "loose seat" type accident has been the cause of fatal crashes, but usually in small aircraft.
    Don't believe it. Sit in your car in the driveway and release the seat lock (if it has the mechanical bar under the seat) and see how easy it is to push the gas or brake. Now imagine doing it when the car is rolling down a 26-degree hill.
    OBTW the autopilot releases when the center column is moved – allows pilot to take instant control in case of an emergency or autopilot problem. Also removes the autopilot when you may need it.
    Murphy Abides!

    December 2, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Al C

    It's Bush's fault.

    December 2, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
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