Pilot lock-out

As soon as I had written the two previous entries about the push toward single-pilot flightdecks, the story broke about the Air India captain being locked of the cockpit by a faulty door. The copilot diverted the aircraft and landed safely.

Can you imagine what the skipper felt like? He was still the aircraft commander, even though confined to the cabin.

The Beeb story also contains the allegation that another Air India crew left an A321 cockpit  (both of them, according to the story), allowing cabin crew to take the pilot seats. Apparently the cabin crew accidentally tripped the autopilot out, scaring the pilots back to the seats they shouldn’t have left. Air India denies the story as told, but hints that the pilots did not act as they should have done.

It would have been interesting if that cockpit door had jammed in that case.

There is more that one moral to this story.

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3 Responses to Pilot lock-out

  1. Victor 30 May, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    “Why two pilots on the flightdeck?

    Because it works?

    Actually it often doesn’t.”

    I do have to disagree with you, David: Actually it often DOES work! And the proof it works is that we are experiencing such safe times in aviation.

    I’ve been flying two men crew since 1986, when I was admitted as a FO on the B737. Since then, work in the flight deck has always been shared between Captains and Co-Pilots, i.e. one would be PF one way, the other would fly the way back. Even before the advent of CRM we were trained to be alert and assertive in the cockpit.

    But the need for a second pilot in the flight deck cannot be simplistically measured only for the task of monitoring the PF. He is such a valuable asset when things get messy in the cockpit (and things do get messy sometimes), especially when you’re flying to certain less standardized countries and decisions have to be taken at the end of a long-haul night and weather is minimal (as well as information)and flight controllers are unable to express themselves in fairly understandable English…South American destinations, as well as some parts of African, Far and Middle Eastern destinations, come to mind.

    Now, add to the equation a contingency fuel of only 3% (the minimum legal) and you’ll get a pretty good picture of what comes next!

    One can substitute a pilot by a set of computers, but in the end, computers are unable to gain experience, and especially are unable to improvise, in order to save your day.

  2. Layman 30 May, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Is it not time to consider mandating travellers pee-bags for the pilots in two person cockpits? This would allow pilots to remain in the cockpits.

  3. mike carrivick 30 May, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    The thought of single-pilot operation, over and above what’s permitted already, fills me with dread.

    Apart from high-workload situations, crew sickness, and getting locked out of the flightdeck after visitng the toilet, where is the criticasl monitoring that is required?

    How easy might it be for single-opn pilots to slip into sloppy inflight practices that only get out the hard way?

    This is the time to recall that old maxim which is still as valid as ever: ‘safety is no accident’.

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