An Air India Express flight from Dubai to Pune with 112 passengers on board plunged 7,000 feet an hour after it took off, just four days after the Mangalore crash that killed 158 people.
The incident came to light on Monday, when the pilots, taken off duty after the incident on May 26, were questioned at the DGCA’s regional office in Kalina.
The pilots have revealed that the aircraft plummeted after the autopilot, on which the plane was set, malfunctioned while the captain was in the toilet.
The co-pilot had not regained control and it took about two minutes for the captain to key in the security code to open the cockpit door, get back to his seat, switch to the manual mode and stop the descent.
"The aircraft plunged from 37,000 feet to 30,000 feet after the autopilot stopped working," said a senior DGCA official, requesting anonymity.
An AI spokesperson confirmed the incident but did not mention the extent of the descent.
In a circular issued in February, the DGCA had directed airlines to train their crew to improve their synchronisation between the manual and auto modes after its safety assessment report found at least 50 incidents where pilots could not rectify errors while flights were in the automation mode.
Some TV reports said passengers were injured because of the sudden drop, but Pune airport authorities denied it.