Possibly it happens only in Air India. A month after one of its international flights was embroiled in a controversy, one of Air India’s domestic flights, operating in the Delhi-Bangalore sector, gave its passengers tense moments on Monday, when the cockpit door got locked even as the commander (pilot) was away from his seat to answer nature’s call.
Flight AI 403 was diverted to Bhopal, where it landed safely with the co-pilot in command.
The number of passengers on board is not known.
“The commander had left the cockpit for a short while to visit the toilet, and on returning found the door locked. The door had got jammed, and all efforts to open it even from inside by the co-pilot failed,” Air India said in a statement.
“The co-pilot, after taking permission from the ground control, diverted the flight to Bhopal and landed there at 1755 hours. The door was rectified by ground maintenance engineers…, and the flight took off at 2045 hours after DGCA clearance and reached Bangalore at 2230 hours,” the statement added.
The airline said the flight was diverted to Bhopal for “technical reasons.”
Air India said that during the time the door was locked, there was a “supernumerary trainee pilot in the cockpit,” along with the co-pilot, who was “a commander himself.” “All precautions and procedures regarding safety were observed during the entire process. The incident posed no danger to the… passengers and the crew.”
The pilot in command decided to divert the flight to Bhopal, which has a lesser volume of traffic than Bangalore.
“I don’t think this particular incident is scary because the co-pilot happens to be very experienced, and himself is a commander. Besides, there was another boy inside. So the plane landed safely. But had the co-pilot been inexperienced, the situation could have been different. An incident like this does not happen always. But the DGCA should wake up and enhance the training standards for co-pilots so that they are equipped to handle such emergencies,” said Captain (Retd.) Mohan Ranganathan, an air safety expert and consultant based in Bangalore.
He said Air India should pull up its maintenance staff members responsible for pre-flight clearance as they should have ensured a cockpit door free of any glitch.
Recently, Air India suspended one of its commanders (pilot) and two airhostesses after it found that the airhostesses overstayed in the cockpit on the Bangkok-Delhi flight on April 12 with the consent of the commander, while the co-pilot had gone to the toilet. During this time, one of the airhostesses was occupying the co-pilot’s seat and reportedly the auto-pilot got disengaged for a brief period. Air India denied the allegation.