The pilot community has expressed surprise at the report of a Jet Airways aircraft, which plunged 5,000 feet while travelling from Mumbai to Brussels and onwards to Newark, when the pilot was taking a controlled nap and his co-pilot was browsing on tablet. They claim there is more to it than meets the eye.
According to a senior pilot, who is a commander with a leading airline, the system sends out loud alarms the moment a plane deviates 300 feet (plus or minus) from the set altitude.
"In this case, if the plane went down 5,000 feet, I am sure the alarm must have set in motion, alerting the crew members," said the pilot. "Also, if the autopilot of the plane gets disconnected, the plane again gets jerks and an alarm rings."
Another senior pilot questioned whether the pilots followed the right procedures as per the DGCA directives while flying. "If a pilot goes on controlled sleep, the co-pilot has to concentrate only on the plane operation and nothing else. Also, a cabin crew member is required to be present inside the cockpit during such time," he said.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has de-rostered the two Jet Airways' pilots. It is being said that both had fallen asleep. While the pilot was on controlled sleep, which is legally allowed on long flights, the co-pilot had allegedly dozed off while browsing on the tablet.
The incident happened last Friday, when the flight 9W 228 plunged to 29,000 feet from 34,000 feet. The altitude was corrected after Ankara ATC alerted the aircraft and the co-pilot then woke up the commander who restored the height. Sources said the pilot did not bring the matter to the airline or the DGCA's notice.
According to aviation experts, sudden altitude drop happens during bad weather or turbulence. A DGCA official said, "We are investigating the incident from all possible angles."