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On 4 September 2017 an Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi to Kochi landed at its destination in heavy rain. Shortly after landing the aircraft turned off the runway and was soon parked, nose first, in an open drain.
There were 102 passengers onboard flight IX452 from Abu Dhabi (3 were injured in this incident) and the Hindustan Times has just published an article covering the results of the inquiry into the accident. It makes for interesting reading.
According to the inquiry, the “probable cause of accident was incorrect judgement taken by PIC (pilot-in-command). Heavy rain and reduced visibility were contributory factors.
The thing is that I’m not sure “incorrect judgement” is a strong enough way to describe what appears to have happened here – staggering arrogance, incredible stupidity and a clear absence of due care and attention would not be overstating the case.
Here are a few facts about the incident outlined in the inquiry:
- The pilot-in-command (PIC) was over 30 years older than his co-pilot and had 13,000 more flight hours than the co-pilot.
- The co-pilot was female.
- The two pilots were working together for the first time.
- The aircraft landed in poor weather (heavy rain).
- The runway markers were barely visible.
- Upon landing the co-pilot told the PIC that she could not see the runway markings and asked him to go extremely slow.
- The co-pilot also attempted to insist that a ‘follow-me” vehicle be requested to guide the aircraft through the low visibility.
- The PIC did not respond to either request.
- The aircraft then took a turn 90m ahead of where it should have been turning (to get on to a taxiway) and drove into an open drain.
- Once in the drain, the PIC applied the throttle three times in an attempt to get the aircraft out of the drain despite the co-pilot requesting the throttle not be applied.
- The aircraft moved deeper into the drain, the nose landing gear collapsed and the aircraft ended up resting on its engines and rear belly with the main landing gear in the air.
Based on the evidence from this incident alone it sounds like the PIC is an arrogant idiot but, when you add in the fact that the same pilot has tested positive for alcohol twice (before the incident) and had previously been suspended for 3 months by the Directorate of Civil Aviation, you have to wonder if this guy should ever be allowed to work as a pilot again.
The PIC obviously had absolutely no intention of taking any notice of what the co-pilot thought or had to say (he clearly believed he knew better throughout the incident) so we can only be thankful that this situation occurred on the ground – I dread to think what may have happened had there been an incident at 30,000 feet which required the PIC and co-pilot to work as a team.
Incidents like this remind me of why I’m cautious when selecting the airlines I fly.
Perhaps it’s unfair and perhaps I’m making a generalization but I’ve long held the belief there are areas of the world where egos are not checked at the door when a flight crew boards and I don’t want an over-inflated ego at the controls of an aircraft I’m in.
Sure, experience counts for a lot when it comes to operating a complicated bit of machinery like an aircraft…but the ability to work as a team, the ability to take cues from one another and mutual respect are all incredibly important aspects of a high-quality crew too.
Sadly, whether we like it or not, there are parts of the world where the prevailing culture often doesn’t mesh well with the idea of crewmembers of different ages (or sexes) working as a team and that can be an invitation for incidents like this to take place.
I’m not sure what the solution here is but incidents like this (and the many other incidents we hear about) don’t exactly inspire me with confidence when it comes to flying with airlines in areas of the world where the age and sex of a person can appear to count for more than a person’s ability, intelligence, and grasp of common sense – I don’t imagine I’ll be flying with Air India Express any time soon.
Featured image courtesy of Wiki Commons Media