DGCA suspends Jet pilots, reviews aircraft fuel policy

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New Delhi | Published: August 22, 2015 12:41:59 AM

Jet Airways flight 9W-555, flying from Doha to Kochi, was unable to land because the pilots could not see the runway due to heavy rain. What happened next put at risk lives of 142 passengers, including six cabin crew

Two Jet Airways pilot were suspended by regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on August 18 over safety issues. Jet Airways flight 9W-555, which was flying from Doha to Kochi was unable to land because the pilots could not see the runway due to heavy rainfall.

What happened next, put at risk lives of 142 passengers on-board, including six other cabin crew. The pilot took three rounds over the Kochi airport in an attempt to land the aircraft, and still when the runway was not visible, they took the plane to Thiruvananthapuram, 15 minutes of flying distance from Kochi. Even at Thiruvananthapuram, the runway was not visible and the pilots took another three rounds of the airport, losing fuel.

Finally, when the flight landed after three rounds, only 270 kg of fuel was left in the aircraft. The bigger risk, a senior DGCA official pointed out was that at any moment, the plane would have dropped like a stone.

The DGCA official also said the flight’s alternate landing station, specified was Bangalore and not Thiruvananthapuram. “The pilot should have taken the flight to Bangalore, and not Thiruvananthapuram. The DGCA is investigating why didn’t the pilots follow the specifications,” said the official.

The DGCA doubts the aircraft did not have enough fuel to reach Bangalore, which is one hour and fifteen minutes from Kochi. While reaching Thiruvanthapuram, the pilots declared fuel emergency. “An aircraft should have at least 1500 kg of fuel left, even if it has taken the flight to an alternate location, after being unable to land at the primary destination,” said the official.

This is the second incident, after a SpiceJet flight landed in Jaipur with only 100 kg of fuel left. Keeping these incidents in mind, DGCA decided to review the fuel policy — which specifies fuel required for the whole trip, taxing fuel that is about 240 kg, contingency fuel of 5% of the trip fuel, alternate fuel required to reach the secondary destination and holding fuel in case the plane has to be air borne before landing for 30 minutes.

“We will look into the matter, and see what needs to be done to make the fuel policy more stringent, so that it does not affect the safety of passengers. If the pilots eat into the fuel prescribed under the policy, it is a safety violation,” said the DGCA official.

The DGCA suspects the Jet Airways aircraft was not carrying enough fuel, being one reason it was taken to a nearer airport, instead of a diversion to Bangalore. The official did not give any timelines for the finalisation of the review.

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