No self medication mid-air, airline crew told

Do not take medicines without consulting a doctor mid-air. This is the advice given by an investigation panel to aircraft crew following an incident on a SpiceJet flight.

The recommendation by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) came recently following its investigation into an incident in January 2014 where a SpiceJet pilot-in-command (PIC) fell ill mid-air after he took a pain killer for his neck pain mid-air.

Though the plane landed safely, the AAIB has not taken the incident lightly and in its recommendation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), it said the regulator should sensitise all airlines to educate their crew of the “consequences of self-medication and also the importance of communicating any ailments” to the company doctor during the pre-flight medical.

“DGCA should issue instructions to all schedule operators should to sensitize flight crew recurrent training on the importance of procedures in case of flight crew incapacitation,” it said.

The panel said the “most probable cause of the SpiceJet pilot getting incapacitated was due to side-effects of a pain killer which he took any prescription or consultation by a doctor”.

Prior to the flight Mumbai-Hyderabad on 8 January 2014, the PIC had neck pain but he decided to continue with his flight schedule as the pain was reducing. He also did not record this during the pre-flight check-up.

“During flight he experienced pain in the neck and consumed a pain killer medicine in flight to subside the pain. During descent, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision and decided to take an anti-allergic tablet to counter the presumed reaction of the pain killer medicine,” the report said.

According to the report, the PIC said due to repeated stretching of arms to operate controls and overhead panels the neck pain got aggravated and for relief, he decided to take a pain killer from his flight bag in which he used to carry over the counter medicine like pain killer and anti-allergic medicine.

During descent into Hyderabad, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision. To counter the existing reaction of the painkiller he took an anti-allergic tablet, the symptoms improved after 10 minutes of taking anti-allergic medicine, it said.

“The PIC apprised his First Officer regarding his health condition and briefed him about the medicines he had consumed. He also instructed the first officer to carry out an auto-land and inform ATC to provide a doctor on ground after landing,” it said.

June 17, 2017

Tigerair-Scoot to further footprints in India

GOLD COAST (Australia): Tigerair and Scoot, the no-frills subsidiaries of Singapore Airlines that will merge by July-end, are looking at expanding its footprints in India by tapping international travellers from Tier-2 cities and secondary markets in the country.

The airlines, which will start functioning under a single brand ‘Scoot’ from July 25 after the merger, believes that the international connectivity from Tier-2 cities in India is “currently untapped” and is an area where it sees a “lot of growth opportunities”.

“It is part of our strategy to tap into Tier-2 cities and secondary markets in India…We are definitely keen on expansion and are constantly exploring avenues to expand our footprint in India. We are already studying markets in India that we want to go to next. However, we will need to assess the market demand before we go ahead with any such plan,” Scoot and Tigerair CEO Lee Lik Hsin said in an email.

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Tigerair, a short-haul airline, currently operates from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, Tiruchirappalli and Lucknow while Scoot, a medium-haul operator, operates from Chennai, Amritsar and Jaipur to Singapore and to other destinations like Australia.

Hsin said South India has been their focus area since the commencement of operations in India and “still see a lot of demand from existing markets” there as well as from “several smaller markets in South India that we do not operate to at the moment”.

Asked whether they would expand beyond the south Indian market, he said, “we are already evaluating options for expansion in North India and would be happy to further expand our footprint all across India.”

The increase in destinations had helped the airlines capture more passengers. While there was an increase of 8.6% from 2013 to 2014, it declined to 7.1% in 2015 compared to 2014.

However, last year saw a 22.3% rise from 2015 with the airlines attributing the significant increase in flown passengers to the launch of new routes Amritsar and Jaipur in May and Oct respectively.

Acknowledging the “tremendous growth opportunities” in India’s aviation sector, Hsin said the UDAN or Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) will step up air connectivity to smaller cities and towns. “With Indian travellers increasingly looking at affordable international travel, international low-cost carriers operating to India have great prospects to offer long-haul budget travel options,” he said.

Queried about their target for India in the coming years, Hsin said they will continue to access potential tier 2 cities in India for further expansion, to cater to both leisure and business demand between India to Singapore and beyond.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 17, 2017)

AI accident: Non-adherence to SOP cost a life

Overlooking procedures appeared to have claimed the life of an Air India ground service engineer when he was sucked into an aircraft in Mumbai two years ago, an investigation has suggested.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) report into the December 2015 incident said non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and rushing crew to operate a delayed flight resulted in the tragic incident.

The report, submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently, is based on the 16 December 2015 incident in Mumbai airport when Air India ground staff Subramaniam died after he was sucked into the national carrier’s aircraft.

According to the report, the crew who operated the Rajkot-Mumbai flight were to fly Mumbai-Hyderabad service. However, the Mumbai-Hyderabad flight was delayed as the Rajkot flight did not land on time.

This prompted Air India’s another pilot on Hyderabad flight to take clearance from the ATC to handle the aircraft. The pilot assigned to fly the plane reached the cockpit just seven minutes before the scheduled take-off.


He told the panel that he took clearance from the Ground Engineer and right clearance from co-pilot regarding obstruction. During push back, the engines were started and the parking brakes were put on after reaching the required position on taxiway. He then put the parking brakes off, switch on the taxi light and gave power to taxi.

However, four ground personnel were still around the nose of aircraft. The aircraft then started moving and the deceased Ground Service Engineer was standing facing back towards the aircraft with headphone on his head. “The aircraft right hand side engine came very close to the deceased and sucked him. All the other ground personnel ran away from the aircraft and the tow truck driver also took the tow truck away from the aircraft leaving tow bar,” the report said.

The co-pilot had told the panel that the ground staff had “given clearance followed by thumbs up” and not used torch for clearance. However, the ground staff refuted this saying the deceased staff had “neither shown thumb or pin to pilot nor by any other person”.

According to Operations Manual, one person from the ground crew has must be designated as marshaller and give thumbs up signal or at night with marshalling flash light wand.

The report concluded that “non-adherence to SOP and delayed departure of flight due to improper rostering of crew resulted in the accident”.

The AAIB recommended that crew must board aircraft 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure and minimum 30 minutes of gap should be there in case of change of aircraft between two consecutive flights.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 14, 2017)

Air India under CBI scanner

The CBI investigation on Air India withdrawing from profit making sectors will cover 12 international and domestic routes, including Bengaluru-Bhubhaneswar and Bengaluru-Ahmedabad flights.

This is part of one of the three FIRs the agency filed on Monday against unknown officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation on issues related to the national carrier during the UPA regime when Praful Patel was the Minister.

According to the FIR registered on the orders of Supreme Court, officials abused their position as public servants in conspiracy with other public servants and private domestic and foreign airlines. The Supreme Court order came on a Special Leave Petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

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They made the national carrier “give up profit making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international private airlines causing a huge loss of market share”.

The routes from which the Air India withdrew flights included four international routes and eight domestic routes. A senior CBI official said there were specific allegations about these routes.

“It is alleged that on the directions of Ministry of Civil Aviation, issued in conspiracy with private domestic and foreign airlines, Air India withdrew its services from many profit making routes and gave away its routes to private and foreign operators without taking any reciprocal benefits,” the FIR claimed.

These include Bengaluru-Bhubhaneswar and Bengaluru-Ahmedabad flights as well as Ahmedabad-Jaipur, Bhubhaneshwar-Kolkata, Mumbai-Vadodra, Hyderabad-Nagpur, Mumbai-Patna, Mumbai-Pune and Pune-Goa. The international routes were Kolkata-Bangko, Kolkata-Dhaka, Doha-Kochi and Kochi-Kuwait.

“On all these routes, private airlines namely Jet Airways, (now-defunct) Kingfisher Airlines, GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Paramount Airways etc started operating and made profits,” the FIR said.

Also, it was alleged that on other “lucrative” routes like Mumbai-Dubai, Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Mumbai-Doha, Air India reduced flights and “gave its opponents a major market share”.

According to the FIR, the foreign airlines were given unrestricted entry into India and major routes were given to them without taking any reciprocal benefits for Air India. This came despite warning that such actions could result in heavy loss to Air India’s market share.

It said the private operators were the “biggest beneficiaries of dishonest actions” of officials and this resulted in private airlines “taking all profitable routes and a bigger share of Air India, which has a social responsibility to ply at even non-viable and non-profit making routes, was the biggest loser (sic)”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 31, 2017)

‘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)

UDAN, Air India to be on focus in Modi’s 4th year

Putting more regional centres on aviation map and dealing with Air India will high on the agenda of Narendra Modi government, which is entering into its fourth year.

Besides, the government will also come up with new regulations to deal with unruly passengers and improve infrastructure facilities for ever growing aviation market in the country.

After coming out with the first ever National Civil Aviation Policy last year and launch of Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), the industry would be watching how the government takes forward the programme.

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The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has already showed its intent to expand the ‘UDAN’ (Ude Desk Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme to unserved routes even if the two connecting airports are not unserved or underserved though without Viability Gap Funding (VGF) and exclusive rights to operate on the routes.

The first round of bidding for regional routes had resulted in adding 33 unserved and 12 underserved airports and 128 routes to the aviation map of the country. Officials are confident that more and more routes will get added to the UDAN network.

While only five operators won the bids in first round, the Ministry expects more players to enter the field in the second round. Market leader IndiGo has already announced that it will enter the regional market and has placed orders for 70-seater aircraft.

Another prominent subject on the table would be the functioning of Air India. Talks about disinvesting the national carrier is hanging in the air and there would be push from within the government to go ahead with divesting stakes in it.

One of the argument is that there is no point in government pumping in money into Air India as part of its Turn Around Plan and Financial Restructuring Plan (TAP-FRP). Under the TAP-FRP approved in April 2012, the government had committed to infuse equity of Rs 42,182 crore from 2011-12 to 2031-32.

The Ministry will also have to finalise the fresh regulations to deal with unruly passengers and setting up of a national No-Fly List to ensure that trouble-makers cannot fly. The government will also have to deal with complaints of airlines jacking up prices during peak season.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 26, 2017)

What annoys you on flights? Some answers!

Wriggling for space on the tiny arm rest is the most annoying thing that an Indian flier encounter on a plane, according to a survey. Then comes the noisy kids and the chatter-box passengers.

Global travel search engine Skyscanner’s latest survey of around 1,000 passengers showed that 47% of travellers feel that struggle for the armrest tops their lists of the most annoying behaviours fellow passengers can commit.

“They say it’s not the destination but the journey that makes the travel worthwhile, but avid travellers will know that is not always the case when it comes to flying. Unruly children, chatty neighbours and armrest hoggers can quickly turn a short flight to paradise into your worst nightmare,” the survey said.

If the subtle fight for armrest tops the list, the noisy kids comes a close second with 46% feeling annoyed at children running wild in the plane or crying unstoppable.

The next in line is the “overly chatty” co-passenger who starts a conversation on anything under the sun and keep the other one engaged even when he is not in a mood. According to the survey, 37% felt constant chatter by a fellow flier is an irritant.

Another etiquette problem irritating the Indian flier is the left litter and the smelly food the co-passenger eats — 33% and 29% respectively.

The journey can be irritable if the co-passenger snores — 25% found it infuriating them.

On the contrary, the survey said, offensive habits that travellers have admittedly indulged in secrecy are itching (27%) and losing their temper (21%) in flight whereas only 9% of flyers regret drinking one too many on board.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 22, 2017)

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