AI suspends pilot, two air hostesses for locking themselves in cockpit for long

FP

Air India has suspended the captain and two female cabin crew members of its flight AI 133 from Bangkok to Delhi on April 12 after an internal inquiry confirmed that the cabin crew members were closeted in the cockpit for a "prolonged period".

According to the AI inquiry report, the flight, which had seven air hostesses and two pilots on board, saw the auto pilot button getting accidently "disconnected" while cruising at 33,000 feet with 166 passengers on board.

Sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the two air hostesses were in the cockpit for most of the duration of the flight, which is in violation of safety rules.

The incident came to light through a disclosure made by a member of the crew after the flight landed in Delhi. The information was given under a voluntary disclosure scheme, under which a member of the crew can independently inform the management about any incident that might have led to a safety issue during the flight.

"As the inquiry confirmed the overstay of the cabin crew in the cockpit, administrative action was taken against them and the pilot. They have been suspended pending the final inquiry of the incident," AI said in a statement on Friday.

According to rules, at least two persons are required to be present in the cockpit at all times during the course of the flight. If there are two pilots on board and one has to step out, a member of the cabin crew is supposed to fill in until the pilot returns. The second person is there to open the cockpit door in case the pilot is busy or unavailable.

These rules were made after an Air India Express aircraft plunged 7,000 feet while on autopilot in May 2010. Investigations revealed that the co-pilot had blanked out when the flight commander took a break to go to the toilet. The co-pilot, who was alone in the cockpit, was also not in a position to open the door for the commander, who entered by punching in passwords that consumed some crucial time.

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