There’s never a shortage of stories from Air India…
The Times Of India reports on the latest incident, which happened on Saturday’s Air India flight 676 from Kolkata to Mumbai. The Airbus A320 had to divert to Nagpur due to a fuel shortage, which was caused by the pilots forgetting to retract the landing gear. In the after takeoff checklist it’s standard procedure for pilots to retract the landing gear, and it typically happens just second after takeoff.
Except this time around the pilots forgot, and allegedly they realized it only halfway through the journey, at which point they were low on fuel and had to divert (having the landing gear down significantly increases drag, and therefore fuel burn). Per the story:
“The pilots are supposed to check fuel at intervals through the trip, which they might not have done. Also, the A320 couldn’t climb beyond 24,000 feet,” the source added.
The fast rate at which the A320 guzzled fuel left the pilots with no option but to divert to Nagpur airport to refuel. Before takeoff, the aircraft is loaded with enough fuel not just to last the journey, but also to circle, taxi and fly to an alternative airport if it’s not possible to land at the destination. But halfway through the almost two hour, 45 minute flight, they were left with not enough fuel to complete the journey safely. “The pilots began to prepare the aircraft for landing and it was only when they decided to put down the landing gear that they realised that it was down all along,” the source added.
This is puzzling, because typically an A320 would cruise at more than 24,000 feet. Furthermore, there’s no way the plane was cruising at maximum speed if the landing gear was out. So if the above description is accurate, it sounds like they knew there was something wrong, but between the two of them they really couldn’t figure out that the problem was that the landing gear wasn’t retracted? It’s especially shocking when you think of the amount of noise and vibration that occurs when the landing gear “door” is open. Ouch!
Air India has confirmed that both pilots have been taken off their rosters, and that an investigation is being done.