A Jet Airways flight from Bangkok carrying over 200 passengers landed safely at the Delhi airport on Wednesday night after its commander fell ill mid-air, but was then stuck on the tarmac.
Flight 9W063 was half way through its journey when the captain fell ill, forcing co-pilot Samir Malhotra to take over the aircraft and declare an emergency as per air traffic regulations.
The flight was then accorded high priority to land at the Indira Gandhi international airport, and Malhotra safely touched down with help from another Jet Airways pilot who was travelling onboard as a passenger.
“The captain, Rajnish Malhotra, was being attended to by a doctor who was travelling on board the flight," an airline spokesperson said.
"As part of our flight training program, the flight crew and cabin crew of Jet Airways are routinely trained to handle this as well as other possible exigencies that may develop during a flight," he added.
After landing the aircraft was stuck on the tarmac till a tow tractor was called in take it to its designated parking bay. India's aviation safety regulator does not permit first officers to taxi an aircraft.
The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has ordered a probe in the matter and the cockpit crew has been taken off roster pending inquiry.
Air safety experts said the incident showed that DGCA needed to reconsider its ban on taxiing permission for co-pilots.
"When co-pilots are permitted to take off and land under captain's supervision after recording 50 flying hours, it is foolish to stop them from taxiing," an independent air safety expert said on condition of anonymity.