High drama at airport: DGCA asks for recordings of black box

High drama at airport: DGCA asks for recordings of black box

Aviation regulator DGCA today asked for recordings of the black box of the Air India Express plane after a high drama unfolded at Thiruvananthapuram when some agitated passengers entered the cockpit, leading its pilot to press the hijack alarm.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked the pilots to appear before it to provide their version of the incident and directed the airline to submit the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) or the black box for an inquest, official sources said.

The regulator also asked Air India Express to take action as per the Aircraft Act against the passengers who entered the cockpit. Following this, six passengers were detained at Kochi airport on charges of endangering aircraft safety when the Boeing-737 landed there, but let off later.

Quoting reports reaching the DGCA headquarters here, the sources said four persons had entered into the cockpit of Kochi-bound Air India Express flight IX-4422 from Abu Dhabi when the plane was diverted to Thiruvananthapuram due to poor weather at Kochi.

"Several others blocked the galley and got into heated argument with the pilot demanding that they fly the plane to Kochi," a source said.

The airline summoned buses to take the passengers to Kochi but they refused to disembark. The crew could not operate the flight as they exhausted their Flight Duty Time Limitation.

As ruckus prevailed and the passengers entered the cockpit and blocked the galleys, the pilot, Commander Rupali Waghmare, pressed the alarm button sending out a hijack message, setting off a flurry of anti-hijacking activities, including armed police and paramilitary personnel surrounding the aircraft.

When things settled down, the DGCA called off the hijack alert. Once such an alert is issued, it is mandatory that the anti-hijacking procedures initiated are called off. Without this, the aircraft involved cannot be cleared for take-off.

After DGCA gave the clearance, a new set of crew flew the aircraft to Kochi after a delay of several hours, the sources said.

"The DGCA would get the CVR and go through the recording. The regulator has asked the pilots to depose before it," the sources said, adding no pilots have been suspended.

The pilot later lodged a complaint that some passengers had barged into the cockpit and threatened her with dire consequences if she did not take the flight to Kochi.

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