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DGCA grounds pilot for 3 months for wrongly transmitting hijack code

NEW DELHI: Aviation regulator DGCA has grounded an AirAsia (India) pilot for three months for mistakenly sending the hijack code to Air Traffic Services (ATS) instead of an emergency message during a Delhi-Srinagar flight on June 9 which suffered an engine snag.

The pilot-in-command (PIC) of that flight, who had asked for the emergency code to be squawked (technical for sending a message), has been cleared to resume flying again with immediate effect.

The false scare following a real snag had happened at 6.03 am on June 9 when AirAsia India Airbus A320 was winging its way to Srinagar on flight I5-715 with 173 passengers and two infants onboard. After flying for about 50 minutes, the A320 reportedly saw its left engine stall. The flight deck got a warning for one of the engines stalling and then the plane (VT-PNQ) began losing altitude.

By this time, the aircraft had crossed Asari point in Punjab beyond which Indian Air Force is in charge of all air traffic control (called military control).

The crew wanted to send an alert for that snag, but inadvertently transmitted the hijack code. The pilot soon realised the mistake and told ATS that they wanted to return to Delhi.

“PIC during descent advised first officer to squawk the emergency code to notify ATS authorities. However, first officer inadvertently squawked the hijack code,” a DGCA order issued by Joint DG BS Rai on Friday, after an inquiry into this case, is learnt to say.

“Captain being PIC was overall in-charge of the cockpit and also obligated to oversee the function of the first officer. However in this specific case, the primary responsibility of squawking the correct code lies with the first officer,” the order is learnt to conclude.

Accordingly, the regulator has suspended flying licence of the first officer (who also happens to be a captain but was first officer on this flight) for three months from the date of the incident. The order warns the PIC “to be more vigilant in future” while allowing her to resume flying immediately.

The flight was later diverted to Chandigarh. Since twin-engine planes can land safely on one engine, this plane did so at Chandigarh.

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