Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fatal India Crash Pilot Had "Sleep Inertia"

Snoring was picked up by the cockpit voice recorders of an Air India Express 737-800 not long before it ran off the runway at Mangalore Airport in May, killing 158 of 164 aboard, according to a Court of Inquiry probe. The flight's captain had more than 10,200 hours and reportedly slept for much of the roughly three hour flight out of Dubai. He reportedly awoke shortly before attempting to land in heavy rain. Investigators found the captain was likely disoriented due to "sleep inertia" and flew the approach right through warnings from his 3,600 hour copilot "to abort" and "go around." The aircraft touched down roughly 1,500 meters down the 2,400-meter table-top runway at Mangalore and the co-pilot said "we don't have runway left." Investigators believe that had emergency braking been applied, the crew could have stopped the aircraft on the wet runway before sliding off the steep terrain at the runway's end, but concluded the crew attempted to return to the air. The aircraft slid down a steep embankment and exploded in the jungle below.

India's Civil Aviation Minister received the report on Tuesday and told reporters he would study it before taking any action. The civil aviation ministry has asked the Airports Authority of India to extend the runway by another 1,000 feet as a separate issue. Experts are in agreement that the crash had nothing to do with the length of the runway. Work and rest rules, however, are a concern. In June 2008, an Air India plane flew 200 miles past its destination while both pilots slept. Evidence has not yet been provided to support or dispel concerns that the pilot's schedule lacked ample opportunity for sleep prior to the flight.

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