In a serious violation of aviation rules, an Air India (AI) pilot travelling as a passenger had obtained clearance from the air traffic control (ATC) for the ill-fated flight to Hyderabad in which a technician died after being sucked into the engine, sources told Hindustan Times.
The incident took place on December 16 last year when AI flight 619 was being pushed back for departure at the Mumbai airport.
Sources said Capt AG Sharma, who was to operate the Hyderabad flight, had landed in Mumbai from Rajkot.
While Sharma was still in the aircraft that had come in from Rajkot, another pilot travelling as staff on duty — crew travelling as passenger on company ticket — entered the cockpit of the Hyderabad-bound aircraft and contacted the Mumbai ATC and obtained route clearance for the flight.
“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. This was a grave violation,” said a senior AI official.
“If such a thing has happened, it’s a breach of regulations and standing operating procedures,” said Capt Shakti Lumba, former operations head of IndiGo and Alliance Air.
AI and Sharma refused to talk when contacted by HT.
Sources said while it should have taken a minimum 30 minutes for the pilots to shift to the other aircraft after landing from Rajkot, the procedure took just under 15 minutes, indicating that things were done in a hurried manner.
After Sharma landed in Mumbai, he had to do a post flight inspection and fill the pilot’s sector and defect reports.
On the Hyderabad-bound flight, the pilots would then have had 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.