How this Air India pilot saved lives of 370 passengers

Source Facebook Sushant Singh. Rustom Palia

"He added: "[There is] no Auto-land, no wind-shear systems, [no] auto speed brake, and the auxiliary power unit is unserviceable as well".

The aircraft had 370 passengers on board and tried to land at the airport but had failed, so they had to keep the plane airborne, in an attempt to find an airport near JFK or in a different city near NY, in coordination with the JFK ATC.

"We are low on fuel", one of the pilots of an Air India flight carrying 370 people told an air traffic controller minutes before the aircraft managed to land safely at New Jersey on September 11.

TCAS and ILS refers to Traffic Collision Avoidance System and Instrument Landing System, respectively. The ILS becomes more crucial in bad weather conditions such as the ones faced by the pilots of AI-101, when they could not visually estimate an approach because of heavy cloud cover.

All three Instrument Landing System (ILS) receivers on board the Boeing 777-300, one of the world's most advanced planes, had failed leaving with the commander a single source radio altimeter and a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System failure.

"This Instrument Landing System is unpredictable", the pilot told Air Traffic Control (ATC) "because every time we turn towards the localiser, it is just gone".

"Yea, that's correct", the pilot responded.

Representative image. Source John Christian Fjellestad Flickr
Representative image. Source John Christian Fjellestad Flickr

In simple terms, the pilots of the nine-year-old Boeing 777-300, among the most sophisticated airliners ever designed, would need to manually land the massive jet without the aid of a host of systems created to help the process.

"Your Instrument Landing System is out of service on both sides of the aircraft, right?"

"Uh, that right, we are on a single radio altimeter now", the pilot said. And since Boston, Albany or CT was too far away and the fuel was too low, they would have to take the chance at Newark, even though they could see little to nothing.

"Gotcha. Okay I am gonna do some research I will get back to you in a second just a. The Air India pilots have successfully handled the situation", airline spokesperson Praveen Bhatnagar said.

"The experience and expertise of our cockpit crew came handy and they landed safely at the alternate airport at Newark". Which means that the pilots had no assistance on how to align the jet during landing.

An emergency crew had already been put on stand-by at the Newark airport. "The professional approach with which they navigated the flight to land safe speaks volumes of Air India's enviable safety record based on the airline's strong foundations of training, engineering and maintenance standards and skillset of its operations crew", the national carrier said in a statement. This meant using an out-of-box approach that they were never taught and is neither mentioned in the operational guidelines of the Boeing.

Moments before touchdown, the tower at Newark Airport sounded out an alert and said AI-101 was flying too low on its approach.

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