What: Air India Express en route from Cochin-Salalah
When: Nov 3, 2011 9:45
Who: 87 passengers
In George’s Point of View
India has made noises in the press about cleaning house regarding some of the bad pilots that skated through a flawed and corrupt school and accrediting system.
In this event, the pilot of an Air India Express COK-Salalah (Oman) flight, made three attempts to land. A cumulation of numerous small errors threatened passenger safety and defied standard operating procedures and included mis-entering data into the system.
The pilot forced the B737 to land using “autoland” in high cross-winds.
Wind speed on the ground was 25 knot (46 kmph) gusting to 35 knot (65 kmph.) Operating procedure allows landing when winds are no higher than 25 knots. The Boeing FCOM lists 35 knots as the max permissible crosswind landing component on a 45m wide. The pilot would have been correct to divert to another airport. There was adequate fuel to do so (if he had realized the numbers entered into the system were incorrect). Ground conditions were at the top of what Boeing allows and would be a challenge. Instead of diverting to Abu Dhabi, the pilot landed in defiance of safety norms.
The pilot attempted to land twice, and then decided to divert. Having been entered with incorrect data, the FMC (Flight Management Computer) incorrectly concluded there was only six minutes of flight time left. This was incorrect, as the plane had 4.7 tons of fuel, more than enough to reach Abu Dhabi, 75 minutes away.
On the pilot’s third attempt, the pilot autolanded (without having trained for autolanding.) It was a safe, if hard landing, and one that damaged the plane and nearly went off the runway. Two tires burst, and the landing gear was damaged.
Maybe this pilot is a fool, or maybe just careless. The plane did land with no loss of life. You know they always say “the devil is in the details.” I don’t know verifiable particulars. We don’t have available first hand data to analyze, but Air India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation does.
But when we see evidence of problems like this, we wonder if India has gone far enough in raising the bar.