The senior pilot in the cockpit of an Air India flight that rammed into a light pole at Mumbai airport three days ago was inexperienced.
The preliminary probe by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aviation safety regulator, into the accident that put 447 passengers of AI 191 at risk, showed that it was the pilot’s second flight as commander.
On Friday, the DGCA handed over the probe to the Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), a special air mishap probe cell.
“Flying experience of a pilot is one of the crucial parameters in any air mishap probe,” said a senior official with the DGCA. The official, however, added that the pilot has been a first officer with AI for more than a decade.
The AI spokesperson did not respond to HT’s calls and a query sent over email about the DGCA’s findings on the senior pilot’s limited experience as commander of the flight.
In the wee hours of Tuesday, the Boeing 777-300 ER-bound hit a light pole on the edge of a taxiway at the Mumbai airport. The pilots and the air traffic control (ATC) official communicating with them were taken off roster pending an inquiry ordered by the DGCA.
On Friday, the DGCA handed over the probe to the AAIB, which has been set up in line with the UN-appointed aviation watchdog’s guidelines for member states.
The AAIB team is scheduled to begin interrogation of the AI pilots and the ATC official in Mumbai from Monday. Until now, the pilots had accused the ATC of assigning a taxiway smaller for passage of a twin-aisle aircraft, said investigators.
The ATC’s incident report, however, did not mention of any such allegation.
The report (a copy of which is available with HT) read, “Around 1:16am AI 191, reported some object while taxiing from taxiway Y1 to Y3. A follow-me jeep on inspection said that nothing was found. However, later the follow-me jeep reported some high mast frangible lights were broken. Later AI 191 also reported wing damage after parking.”
Independent flight safety experts said a pilot should avoid such a collision even if a smaller taxiway is assigned. “As a commander of the flight you should simply stop the aircraft if you feel that your wing might hit an obstacle,” said a retired Boeing commander.