Friend in ‘cockpit’: DGCA issues show cause notices to AI CEO & chief of flight safety

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued show cause notices to Air India CEO and chief of flights safety over the February 27, 2023, case of a pilot inviting a friend over to the flight deck of a Dubai-Delhi flight. A senior DGCA official said the notice has been issued for “lapses in not timely reporting safety instruction violations” to the regulator and for “delay in investigating the incident.” The notice was issued on April 21, 2023, and the airline has 15 days to respond to the same. After examining the response, the regulator will decide on the action against the crew members and airline.
The Air India pilot is under the scanner for reportedly having his “very sweet” female friend in the flight deck while operating a Dubai-Delhi flight on February 27. A crew member reported this violation to the airline and DGCA. What’s more, the complaining crew member claims the pilot wanted the friend to be given a “living room” experience as he asked for pillows, business class meal and alcohol for her.
It is learnt the “friend” is a trained cabin crew on the type of aircraft, Boeing 787, that was being used to operate this flight that day. “This lady had gone to Dubai for AI’s office work. She was sleeping in her economy class seat when the captain sent the cabin crew to call her to the cockpit. While she is a trained cabin crew, the pilot should not have called her to the flight deck as she was not a crew on this flight. She spent some time on the jump seat and has completely denied asking for liquor or the same being served to her while she was there. She had coffee in the flight deck and then left for her economy seat,” said multiple aviation sources.
The pilot’s way of speaking and action offended the cabin crew member who filed the complaint on return. Some co-passengers reportedly objected to a flyer going to the flight deck as only crew members are allowed there in flight. Both the pilots who operated the said flight are currently learnt to be abroad. They will be taken off flying duties (off rostered) the moment they land in India pending this inquiry.
An AI spokesperson had earlier said: “We have taken serious note of the reported incident and investigations are underway in Air India. We have also reported the matter to the DGCA and are cooperating with their investigations. We have zero tolerance in aspects related to the safety and well being of our passengers and will take requisite action.”
According to the crew member’s complaint, the pilots of this flight AI 915 were late and boarded the aircraft along with passengers. Then the captain asked the crew if there were any vacant business class seat for his friend. “He told me that the moment boarding is over he wants to know the load in business class as he has a very sweet friend who was travelling in economy and he wants her be to upgraded to the business class. As I was already aware of the load I told Captain that the load (business class) is full. In business we have 16 guests and 2 seats are on MEL (not serviceable),” the complaint says.
“He (the pilot) said the cockpit should appear welcoming, warm and comfortable, as though he was preparing his living room for a lady friend. Also, to take her drinks and snacks order and serve her in the cockpit. I told him, ‘Captain, I am not comfortable serving alcohol in the cockpit’. This seems to have upset him a lot and his entire attitude changed from that moment onwards. He became very snappy and rude and from there on started treating me like a servant working exclusively for him,” the crew member said in her complaint. The angry pilot then “made sexist remarks during the return flight” the complaint says, adding that the pilot requires psychiatric evaluation as he posed risk to passenger safety.
When the friend was in the cockpit, the crew member alleges that the pilots were not in their usual positions. “I noticed that the first officer was sleeping reclined fully with a pillow and the pilot in (command) was sitting across facing the passenger in the rear observer station to chat. The pilot in charge indicated that the first officer (co-pilot) was taking a controlled rest and sleep,” the complaint says. On landing, the crew member says both the pilots accompanied the friend till immigration.

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