IndiGo pilot collapses at boarding gate, passes away soon after

Pilots raise questions about accumulated fatigue

August 17, 2023 10:37 pm | Updated 10:37 pm IST - New Delhi

The pilot community has pointed towards fatigue accumulated over several years of flying and demanded that the DGCA conduct a detailed investigation into the reasons for the pilot’s death. File

The pilot community has pointed towards fatigue accumulated over several years of flying and demanded that the DGCA conduct a detailed investigation into the reasons for the pilot’s death. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

An IndiGo pilot, Manoj Balasubramani, fell unconscious while on duty on Thursday at Nagpur airport and passed away soon after.

“He took unwell at Nagpur airport and was rushed to the hospital where he unfortunately passed away,” the airline said in a statement. It is learnt that the pilot collapsed at the boarding gate at Nagpur airport.

He was rostered to operate a flight from Nagpur to Pune, along with three other flights. He was a resident of Chennai.

The incident has raised questions about mounting fatigue among airline crew, responding to which the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that Thursday’s flight at 1 p.m. from Nagpur was the pilot’s first flight of the day, and that he had received 27 hours of rest after his last flight. He had operated a flight each from Thiruvananthpuram to Pune and Pune to Nagpur on Wednesday.

But the pilot community has pointed towards fatigue accumulated over several years of flying and demanded that the DGCA conduct a detailed investigation into the reasons for the pilot’s death to ensure aviation safety, and review the rules governing pilot duty hours.

“Imagine if the incident occurred during a flight, with the low cockpit experience that has become acceptable today, one can only hope that the First Officer will be able to save the day,” said one pilot.

“It is time for the regulator to wake up and smell the coffee and revise the rules on duty hours. This is a matter of flight safety. Minimum rest of 12 hours is too low, and night duty on two consecutive nights is unacceptable as it plays havoc with our circadian rhythm and impacts our ability to remain alert. How are we supposed to remain attentive while dodging inclement weather conditions or challenging terrain such as while flying to Nepal,” said a senior member of a cockpit crew.

“Pilots are being increasingly grounded on medical grounds related to fatigue. There is a need to examine if the Captain had filed fatigue reports with the airline, and whether the airline acted on those,” said another crew member.

Earlier this week, a LATAM Airlines pilot suffered a medical emergency on a flight from Florida to Chile and later died in hospital.

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