A near mishap involving an Air India flight that put lives of more than a 100 passengers at risk in 2009 has come to light now.
In a major safety breach, the pilots of the Air India flight did not report the incident and nor was it picked up by the airline’s safety monitoring team which is supposed to monitor the flight data recorder, which is part of the black box, of every flight.
Hindustan Times has accessed documents showing that passengers on board Air India flight IC 693 from Mumbai to Bangkok on November 19, 2009 had a narrow escape when the flight hit turbulence and climbed 1,500 feet above the permissible height.
The vertical separation between two flights mid-air should be 1,000 feet. With the AI flight breaching that, there was a strong possibility of it crashing into another flight travelling at a higher altitude.
The flight’s crew report states that crew members and passengers fell off their seat during the turbulent 90 seconds. The graph also shows that the aircraft’s autopilot had failed soon after it hit turbulence and the pilot had to manually bring it back to the normal altitude.
The pilots, however, did not report the incident. “The engineers should know about such an incident to check if the plane is airworthy for a subsequent journey,” said an air safety expert.
One flight attendant was taken to hospital for an X-Ray after landing in Bangkok because she hurt her back. Airline sources said that the injured crewmember was shown to be ‘on duty’ on the return flight to Mumbai to hush up the matter. “Though the injured crew member was shown to be on duty, she travelled as a passenger on the return flight due to her injury,” said the source.
The incident also exposes the aviation regulator’s rule of 100% monitoring of the flight data recorder. “The rule was introduced because flying crew is likely to hide such information fearing reprimand. But it seems that the airline was not adhering to the rule,” added the expert.
An AI spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the incident. He refused to comment citing that the matter was under the DGCA’s purview.