Kin of crash victims still await answers

DUBAI — Relatives of the victims of the Air India Express plane that crashed in Mangalore claiming 158 lives are seeking answers from the airline after a leaked official inquiry report revealed that the pilot was in deep sleep during the journey.

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Published: Sat 20 Nov 2010, 12:48 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:04 PM

The Court of Inquiry into the crash has found that the pilot in command, Zlatko Glusica, was disoriented and suffered from sleep inertia after he slept through more than half of the three-hour flight from Dubai on May 22. The expatriate pilot, whose snoring was captured by the flight data recorder, was also late in reacting to the warnings by his co-pilot H. S. Ahluwalia when he landed the flight after covering more than half of the runway.

Most of the deceased used to live in the UAE. Outraged at the ghastly error of the pilot, their relatives said the airline should be held responsible for assigning the sleepy pilot for duty and the report should be a wake-up call for it to impose stricter measures for avoiding any such incident in the future.

A day after the early morning crash, Arvind Jadhav, chairman of Air India’s parent company, National Aviation Company of India Ltd, had denied that the pilot and co-pilot were either tired or not-sufficiently trained.

With the probe result pointing fingers at the pilot’s groggy reaction, relatives of the victims feel that the pilot might have either overworked or drunk. “If he slept for about two hours, we can make out that he was very tired. It’s the fault of the people who assigned him. If he had overworked, why they allowed him to fly the plane especially when he was warned earlier for a delayed landing in Kochi?” asked Abdul Wahid Kazi, who lost six relatives including his brother’s family in the crash.

Abdul Rahman, who lost his wife and nine-year-old son, said the report just corroborated what was suspected immediately after the crash. “I firmly believe that he was drunk and that is why he slept like this. Otherwise, how can a pilot sleep for such a long time during the flight?”

Dr Mohammed Mahboob-ul-Huq, whose daughter Sabrina Nasrin Huq was the sole female passenger among the eight survivors, said better monitoring system should be in place for pilots. “We have heard about drivers of automobiles falling asleep while driving. If it is happening with pilots, it is a very serious issue. There should be restrictions on their flying time and the airline should make sure that they are mentally and physically sound to fly the plane,” he said.

Rafeeq Eroth of Malabar Pravasi Coordination Council, which is helping the victims’ families in compensation claims, said the council was seeking at least one week’s flight history and other details for Glusica from Air India Express. “We have asked a lawyer to file an RTI (Right to Information) application to AIE which is answerable, being a fully government-owned entity. We should know the reason for his sleep and if they (the airline officials) are complying with the international standards for total flying hours and reporting time to duty for the pilots.”—

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