News Plane incidents — 12 August 2017

Two pilots from Air India had their license suspended, after they forgot to retract the landing gears of a plane after take-off, resulting in a dramatic increase in fuel consumption throughout the flight.

Air India Flight AI676, carrying 99 passengers, was scheduled to depart from Kolkata for a two-and-a-half-hour journey to Mumbai.

However, after only 90 minutes in the air, the pilots had to divert to Nagpur as they would not have made it to their destination with the low amount of fuel left in the Airbus A320 plane.

Only when the pilots were preparing for the landing on Nagpur that they realised they forgot to retract the landing gears, which had created additional drag on the airplane and forcing more fuel consumption than in any normal flight.

The drag created by the wheels reduced the speed of the plane to 230 knots instead of 500 knots, and it also restricted the plane’s climb, flying at a low altitude of 24,000 feet compared to the usual altitude of 37,000 feet.

“After takeoff, both the women pilots forgot to retract the landing gear.

“As a result, the brand-new Airbus A320 continued to ascend at a very low climb rate,” said a source to Times of India.

The Airbus A320 is one of the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world, however with the drag induced by the extended landing gears, it had to burn more fuel to compensate with the drag.

“The pilots were de-rostered (taken off flying duty) after the incident was reported,” said Dhananjay Kumar, spokesperson for Air India.

A senior Air India pilot told the Times of India the incident showed extremely poor situational awareness and mismanagement of crew resource between the two pilots.

“They realised the landing gears were down only while preparing to land at Nagpur after running low on fuel.

“In such poor situational awareness, it is a miracle that they realised the plane is running low on fuel,” commented the senior pilot.

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