Two Air India pilots have been suspended after being reported for inappropriate behavior and allowing flight attendants to operate a plane during flight. Air India has denied that the pilots ever put passengers in danger and have offered another explanation for the suspensions.
"It is categorically stated that at no point of time the cockpit was left unattended by the cockpit crew. Based on a report that two cabin crew members were in the cockpit for a prolonged period on the said flight, the airline management pro-actively summoned the cockpit and cabin crew for an inquiry. As the inquiry confirmed the overstay of the cabin crew in the cockpit, administrative action was taken against them and the pilot," Air India said in an official statement.
"They have been suspended pending the final inquiry of the incident. During the incident, due to distraction, the co-pilot had touched the auto-pilot disconnect button momentarily but the same was connected back," Air India explained.
However, a member of the Air India crew told the company that First Officer Ravindra Nath excused himself the cockpit and had a flight attendant take over the controls while he went to the restroom. Then, just moments later, Captain B. K. Soni called for another flight attendant and left the cockpit with the plane on autopilot.
The two captains slept for approximately 40 minutes in business class while the flight attendants took control of the plane. Unfortunately, one of them accidentally turned off the autopilot, and the captains hurried back to take control and reconnect the autopilot option.
"According to the guidelines, it is a standard procedure to ensure the presence of a second person in the cockpit so that if the pilot is not able to operate the aircraft for some reason, the other crew member in the cockpit can immediately call for the other pilot. But what actually happened after this made a mockery of air safety," a source who works for Air India told the Times of India.