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. Apollo1 the co-pilot screamed "praise Allah Praise Allah."

    December 2, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ron R

    It was Bush's Fault

    December 2, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. TedStriker

    On the belt line of the automatic pilot is the manual inflation nozzle. Pull it out...and blow on it. 🙂

    December 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Stevereeno

    Pilot calling to tech support who answers:.....................'hello this is Peggy.'

    December 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darth Vadik, CA


      December 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TheOldMan

    25 y/o co-pilot? A bit young I think...

    December 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      25 is almost the average age of a regional airline first officer here in the US.

      December 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lance

    Pulling back on the yoke will stop the dive and reduce the airspeed. Pulling back will override the autopilot. The copilot knew this, unless he was incompetent or totally overwhelmed.

    Either way, barring a mechanical malfunction, he should be fired and find another line of work.

    A third possibility would be that he was a terrorist who failed in his mission.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gino

    Sounds like this guy read 'Airframe' by the late Michael Crichton. An excellent read, BTW.

    This "copilot" can always get a job as a computer programmer...

    December 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Aristotle

    This story does not pass the smell test.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    "The passengers were in the middle of a meal.." ..I'll bet they were!

    December 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. notalech

    young and dumb even in India

    December 2, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Charlie Seattle

    The CoPilot had his feet op on the control panel and was stretching his legs.

    Boeing seats can not hit the controls. Only idiots not paying attention ...asleep or otherwise.

    December 2, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Darth Vadik, CA

    No clue how to get out of that emergency???!!!!
    How about reduce power and pull the yoke back???

    December 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hump'n a Commando

    No Suprise here....heavy load in High ISA and a 25 year old kid at the helm climbing bet he will blow the ram concept of the semi-annular inlet flow and trick out the a-throttles....can you say outa airspeed?
    If you believe the computers you will eat it like Air France- takes experience-a 25 year old kid or a cruise crew wont have.
    I am just glad he did not throttle into a compressor blowout and roll inverted......just ask the AeroMexico boys in the DC-10 about that one. Steep hi-dives save lives...unless you dive into the rocks below...or tear up on the pullout.
    Commander Pettibone would say...
    Chair my fanny- you kick the stick above 330 where the airloaded tail goes super effective and you are looking at 50 ambulances. Step climb it next time India...worked in WWII and today too! Go back to aerodynamic school kid and stay awake this time!

    December 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LON

    Guys and Ga'ls.

    You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.....

    Co-pilots these days are cheap labour with a licence. Nothing else. The insatiable thirst for no-frills, low cost flying has had as a consequence that you and I are subjects to Bubba's driving School whenever boarding a low-cost airplane. A sort of russian roulette with a 60 ton aluminum tube. An entry-level pilot on one of those rigs has around a couple of hundred hours of flight experience – total. But eh, he's cheap and willing...... No thanks.
    A lot of people have been crying "Wolf" on this very subject, but as always being ignored by the industry and even passengers who are willing to sacrifice safety for the sake of a few bucks. Safety policy my foot.

    December 3, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. So What

    If find it hard to believe, the co-pilot was too overwhelmed, to respond correctly to the situation (flight training 101) A suicide/martyrdom attempt is more believable. Funny how this happened while the pilot was in the toilet, don't you think? Smells fishy to me. As for the Indian bashing - shame on you people.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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