Indian aviation just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was a story about the number of pilots who get grounded because they are have had too much to drink:
Around 50 pilots each year in India are being grounded because they had consumed alcohol before taking a flight, the country’s civil aviation authorities said Tuesday… Civil aviation rules specify that pilots and cabin crew cannot consume alcohol 12 hours before taking a flight… India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world with dozens of new airlines competing with each other everyday, often resulting in pilots forced to fly at short notices. [Link]
Notice that this is meant to be a positive story. Even if pilots are boneheaded, they’re getting caught before they get into the cockpit. If they’re actually catching all the tipsy pilots (and that’s a big if), then oversight authorities have done their job well.
However, there’s no good way to spin this next story other than to point out that at least nobody got hurt:
An Air India flight headed for Mumbai overshot its destination and was halfway to Goa before its dozing pilots were woken out of a deep slumber by air traffic control, a report said…
“After operating an overnight flight, fatigue levels peak — and so the pilots dozed off after taking off from Jaipur,” … The plane flew to Mumbai on autopilot, but when air traffic there tried to help the aircraft land, the plane ignored their instructions and carried on at full speed towards Goa. “It was only after the aircraft reached Mumbai airspace that air traffic control realised it was not responding to any instructions and was carrying on its own course,” the source said.
Finally air traffic control buzzed the cockpit and woke up the pilots, who turned the plane around, the report said. [Link]
Air India has strenuously denied the story, saying that it was merely a communications glitch:
“The report is absolutely incorrect, devoid of facts, misleading and irresponsible. It is a figment of imagination,” Air India spokesman Jitender Bhargava told AFP by telephone from Mumbai. [Link]
Note that a shutdown in communication still doesn’t explain why the pilots neglected to land the airplane as they were supposed to in Bombay. At best Air India is saying that its pilots simply … forgot, and there was nobody to remind them. Maybe they had a bit too much to drink.