Indian plane drops 5000-ft. after pilot dozes off; co-pilot busy on tablet

Published: August 14, 2014
plane level burst

The Indian aviation regulator summoned both pilot and co-pilot to initiate a probe into what has been termed as a “serious incident”. The two have been grounded pending investigation. AFP/Getty Images

VANCOUVER DESI

Close on the heels of rodent infestation on an Indian flight, another airliner is in trouble because of a sleeping pilot.

A Jet Airways plane on its way from Mumbai to Brussels last week suddenly jumped 5,000-ft. in the Ankara airspace over Turkey, the Times of India reported.

The pilot of the Boeing 777 jet was taking ‘controlled rest’, which is allowed by the rules. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)  is investigating how the aircraft dropped 5,000-ft. without the co-pilot realizing it and whether she too had dozed off.

Jet Airways has also initiated an internal inquiry into the matter, the airliner said in a statement on Facebook.

“The airline is also extending all co-operation 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,” Jet Airways said.

According to TOI, the co-pilot, who should have been in charge of the cockpit, claims she was busy on her tablet and hadn’t noticed that the aircraft lost altitude.

Only after an alert from Ankara air traffic control asking why the flight had moved away from its assigned 34,000-ft., the co-pilot woke up the commander and brought the situation under control.

DGCA got to know of the incident after a top official received an anonymous text message about the “level burst”, TOI reported.

Both the pilot and the co-pilot have now been grounded while an investigation is carried out.

“The commander was taking controlled rest, which means he was sleeping as per global airline norms where pilots take rest in the cockpit by turn on long flights. The co-pilot, who was supposed to ensure that the aircraft flew steadily on its assigned path, told DGCA investigators that she was on her electronic flight bag (EFB) — a tablet that has all aircraft documents loaded on to it. She did not realize that the aircraft had dropped below its assigned level,” a source who spoke to the two pilots told TOI.

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