Air India pilot and crew fight at 30,000 feet
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New Delhi: Endangering the lives of 106 passengers and grossly violating safety norms, Air India pilots and crew entered into a fight almost 30,000 feet above the ground. The incident happened on Indian Airlines (IA) Airbus A-320 as the aircraft cruised over Pakistan en route to Delhi via Lucknow from Sharjah.
There are two sides of the story. The cabin crew says that the whole incident started when woman crew went into the cockpit and one of the pilots held her hand and then pushed her out of the cockpit. "She hit the cockpit door with such force that she started bleeding. When Amit Khanna, the Purser, saw her in this condition, he went to the cockpit to ask what was happening. At this point, the pilots got abusive and started a fight with him," said a representative of the IA cabin crew to Economic Times, who added that the actual fight took place on the Lucknow-Delhi segment. The cabin crew alleged that pilots harassed a 24-year-old female colleague who later filed a molestation complaint against them with the cops after the flight landed in Delhi.
The pilots, Captain Ranbir Arora and Co-pilot Aditya Chopra, on the other hand, accused a male Flight Purser of misconduct that seriously compromised flight safety, and said the accusation of molestation aimed to protect the Khanna who has a commercial pilot license (CPL)-from facing action. "The airhostess had announced flying time from Sharjah to Lucknow as per the schedule, and not the actual one that the commander gives. After taking off, the pilot scolded the airhostess and then called Amit to the cockpit," said a source speaking for the pilots.
There are few unconfirmed reports that say at one stage the cockpit was unmanned, as the crew was busy fighting outside. Seeing that things are getting out of hand at one point the pilot threatened to divert the plane to Karachi. The cockpit was cleared, with pilots pushing out Amit and then locking the door. After that, the plane landed in Lucknow at around 4.30 am. "Amit then apologized to the pilots, and they took off for Delhi so that the flight wasn't delayed. He later got the woman crew member to level charges of molestation to avoid action for making a hostile entry into the cockpit," said a source speaking on behalf of the pilots.
Confirming the in-flight fight, Air India said it had ordered an inquiry and had grounded the staff members involved. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is fuming at the gross violation of safety norms on IC 884 and has ordered a probe. "The airline didn't even inform us of this incident in time. We're going to summon the crew members on Monday. This incident is shocking and we may need to take exemplary action," said a senior official.