The pilots of the Indigo Airlines aircraft that veered to the left of the runway on Saturday were caught up in a brief moment of confusion over manning cockpit controls, found the aviation regulator’s primary probe.
Investigators found that the confusion could have delayed the rescue. The pilots told the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is investigating the incident, that the co-pilot mouthed commands used when the senior pilot is incapacitated. Soon after touchdown, the co-pilot said, “I have the controls”, after which the commander said the same words. However, the co-pilot then repeated the command. “The statement reflected a moment of panic and lapse in co-ordination in the cockpit,” said a source requesting anonymity.
The aircraft failed to land on the centre of the runway owing to incorrect ‘rudder’ input. A rudder is a steering tool crucial to maintain a flight’s alignment.
The error could be because the crew overreacted to a negligible wind blowing across the runway. Investigators also found a fault in the rescue effort to bring the aircraft back to the middle of the airstrip. According to the debriefing report submitted by the crew, the commander used a ‘tiller’ to control the deviation.
A tiller is used to manoeuvre aircraft taxiing at low speed on ground. As the aircraft was at a high speed, the tiller was less effective.
On Sunday, the airline grounded both the pilots pending the probe, while a team of DGCA officials interrogated them. The safety regulator is likely to submit a preliminary report on Monday.
An Indigo Airlines spokesperson refused to comment on the preliminary findings, saying that investigations were on.
The DGCA will also probe why the airline failed to report the incident. A report submitted by airport authorities showed there was a deliberate attempt to cover up the incident.
What was worse, however, was that an aircraft maintenance engineer who discreetly changed the aircraft tyres did not inform the airfield staff.