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DGCA grounds errant AI pilot

A pilot investigation board (PIB) has been set up by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to inquire into the series of unsavoury events that allegedly occurred aboard its Delhi-Shanghai flight on July 5. MiD DAY had reported on July 24 (‘Maharaja of cover-ups’) and yesterday (‘Did AI risk 250 lives with damaged aircraft?’) about the circumstances.

The pilot — who allegedly did not inform the airline or DGCA that the flight experienced massive mid-air turbulence leading to damage to the plane and injuries to several passengers, and ordered crewmembers to stay mum — has been derostered.

The regulatory body has decided to fast track the case by appointing a deputy director-level official, asking him to submit the report in 48 hours (starting July 25). The airline has appointed two pilots, who are junior to the accused and technically report to him, to assist DGCA with the inquest.

Top sources at the DGCA informed this newspaper that the PIB has been constituted under the chairmanship of DGCA’s deputy director (air safety), western region, Sanjay Bramhane, and the board will submit its report to the director (aviation safety) in the stipulated time.

The representatives of Air India on the PIB are Captain BN Kola and Captain Ajit Singh, along with a ground engineer, who, before the probe, were reporting to Captain SPS Suri as he was general manager (operations), and whose role is in question pertaining to the current episode. “Captain Suri has been summoned by the PIB in Mumbai.

Eleven other cabin crewmembers along with co-pilot Captain R Mirchandani would also be questioned. We have asked the airline to deroster Captain Suri till the inquiry is complete,” said a DGCA source.

Wait and watch!
The airline spokesperson said, “We have asked Captain Suri to report to the DGCA-led inquiry panel. We don’t want to add anything else since the matter is being investigated.”

Captain Mohan Ranganthan, member, Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Committee (CASAC), however, maintained that ideally a senior officer should have been appointed.

“Since the pilot in question is a senior manager, some of his superiors should have been given the job to investigate the case. The present scenario would not make much difference as the data pertaining to the probe will be available in the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR), through which the investigators can make out what actually transpired.”

The crewmembers who are scheduled to appear before the PIB suggested the opinion of passengers injured should be taken into account. “We will request the committee to talk to the commuters. This would clear the air on the huge cover-up by the pilot in question,” said one of the crewmembers.  

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