The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of India has suspended two Jet Airways’ pilots and initiated a probe after both of them fell asleep and the plane they were manning plunged 5,000 feet.
The incident took place last Friday when the Boeing 777-300, operating flight 9W-228 from Mumbai to Brussels and onwards to Newark, plunged from 34,000 feet to 29,000 feet while traversing on the busy air route to Europe.
Both pilots were summoned by the DGCA on Wednesday for questioning.
The DGCA has also set up a three-member team to review the airline's flight training programmes and facilities following the incident, official sources said, adding the team has been asked to submit their report by August 31.
It has directed the airline to come forward with all related reports, as well as the records of the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) within this week, they said.
Confirming the incident, an airline spokesperson said Jet Airways has initiated an internal inquiry into the matter.
"The airline is also extending all co-operations in the matter to the DGCA by providing all necessary assistance for the inquiry. Safety is of paramount importance to Jet Airways as is also the welfare of our guests and crew and the airline will always take appropriate steps to ensure the same," the spokesperson said.
According to DGCA sources, both the flight’s commander and first officer fell asleep soon after the aircraft entered the Turkish airspace.
Around the same time, the flight descended from 34,000 feet to 29,000 feet without anybody manning the cockpit controls, said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
DGCA sources added that in a bid to hide the serious safety lapse, the pilots did not file the flight safety report (FSR), a mandatory exercise to document any untoward incident during the course of a flight. It even failed to report the matter to the DGCA.
“By holding back the information now it would be difficult to access pilots’ conversations as the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) was not removed soon after the incident,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
The DFDR or the black box is an electronic recording device placed in an aircraft for the purpose of facilitating air mishaps probes. It comprises of the flight data recorder (FDR) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
In similar cases earlier, the DGCA has established that both pilots were sleeping by producing snoozing sounds from the CVR.
Following the incident, DGCA has constituted a team comprising officials from its Airworthiness, Air Safety and Flight Operations wings to audit Jet Airways' training procedures for pilots for an entire year.
The team would also look into the airline's training policies, including how it defined 'controlled rest' for a pilot, the sources said, adding that inspections would also be carried out of its training facilities.
The regulator would also probe why the airline or the pilots failed to report the incident to it, as the DGCA got to know of the incident only after an anonymous message, the sources said.
Both the pilots kept flying until they were grounded two days ago.
The cockpit crew should have informed the airline which in turn should have apprised the Accident Investigation Board of the incident, the official sources added.
The DGCA would also enquire into whether there was any technical failure in the aircraft which led it to lose height and going for an 'uncontrolled descent' or was any switch accidentally pressed by any of the pilot, they said.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has been asked to conduct a detailed investigation into the incident which could take four to five months.
Only after the Board gives its report, would it be possible to determine the quantum of penalty, if any, for the pilots, officials said. (Hindustan Times)