‘Advice crew what to eat before flight’

Airlines should advise its crew on what should they eat in the 24 hours prior to operating a flight to ensure that they don’t fall sick mid-air, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has recommended.

The AAIB’s recommendation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation came following investigations into a “serious incident” of incapacitation of a pilot of Jet Airways while flying from Bangkok to Delhi on May 7, 2015.

The plane with 121 passengers and six crew members on board had entered Kolkata airspace when the pilot felt uneasy. “After 1.5 hours of flight, the pilot-in-command (PIC) was served salad, soup and curd. (15 minutes after having this) he started feeling uneasy,” the report said.

The tail section of an Air India Airbus

The pilot had re-entered the cockpit after feeling but 30 minutes later, he “was absolutely unresponsive and shivering.” He was again taken out of the cockpit and administered medicines. Tests revealed that the pilot did not consume alcohol.

The flight was completed by the First Officer with the help of another pilot who travelling in the same flight.

“During the previous night, the Pilot-in-Command had his dinner which mainly consisted of noodles. On the day of incident, he had fruits, fresh fruit juice, soup and bread for his breakfast and lunch. He had sufficient sleep i.e. 8 hours during night and 2 hours during day,” the report said.

In its recommendation, it suggested, all airlines should ensure guidance materials available to crew regarding “the meals which flight crew must not consume before a flight or a layover leading to a flight within 24 hours.

As the particular flight landed in Delhi and not in Kolkata despite it being the closest after the pilot felt uneasy, the AAIB said the DGCA must clearly define as a policy that an aircraft must commence diversion to the closest suitable airport once a flight crew incapacitation is confirmed.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 30, 2017)

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