The high-level committee that probed the Mumbai airport accident where an Air India (AI) technician died after being sucked inside the aircraft has directed the airline to ban entry of unauthorized persons in the cockpit, change its rostering system to ensure pilots reach the aircraft well before a flight and stop off-duty pilots taking flight clearance.
HT had first reported the investigation report on August 24 which blamed rostering lapses and pilot error for the December 16, 2015 accident. And as lessons from the accident, the committee has asked AI to take strict measures to ensure no repeat of the accident.
In a serious breach of aviation rules and regulations, an off-duty AI pilot travelling as a passenger to Hyderabad had obtained flight clearance from the Mumbai air traffic control. This was done as pilots who were to actually operate the Mumbai-Hyderabad flight had not reached the aircraft and, in fact, were still operating their previous Rajkot-Mumbai flight.
This was among the many lapses that occurred on the fateful evening of December 16.
“ATC clearances have to be obtained by pilots who are flying and not by a passenger, even if he is a qualified pilot, as the pilots who are going to fly have to understand the clearances. In fact, an off-duty pilot cannot be even allowed inside the cockpit,” said an official
“AI to issue circular to stop staff-on-duty pilots obtaining flight clearances. AI to instruct cabin crew not to allow entry of unauthorized persons in the cockpit,” the committee said in its safety recommendations.
It has also asked the airline to issue guidelines that “crew must board aircraft 20 minutes prior to actual departure and minimum 30 minutes of time gap should be there in case of change of aircraft between two consecutive flights” and avoid “last minute changes in crew rostering”.
Pilots were late for the Hyderabad flight, scheduled to depart at 7.30 pm, by over an hour. The Rajkot flight was scheduled to arrive only at 8.10 pm and due to a delay arrived only at 8.35 pm.
“There was a change of plane also. Pilots operated the Rajkot flight on an A320 aircraft while it was an A319 aircraft for the flight to Hyderabad,” the official said.
“Things were done in a hurried manner. After landing in Mumbai from Rajkot, pilots should have done a post flight inspection and fill the pilot’s sector and defect reports. On the Hyderabad-bound flight, pilots should have had time to prepare the cockpit, do an external inspection, conduct a pre-flight briefing, obtain ATC clearance and then start the engines. This would have taken 30-40 minutes,” said another official.