These pilots saved over 370 lives, despite multiple systems failure
In a span of just 38 minutes, what would have been the greatest disaster in the history of aviation was averted, thanks to two vigilant Air India pilots of AI-101, senior commander Rustom Palia and second-in-command, Captain Sushant Singh. Their timely coordination and presence of mind saved over 370 lives on board.
The two pilots were flying a nine-year-old Air India Boeing 777-300 from New Delhi to New York, which is the longest flying route in the world. The direct flight is 14 hours long with no stopover in between.
It's not an easy task for any pilot, at a time when turbulent weather that disrupts the plane's navigation. It was the same scenario, in which the weather in New York, had caused a malfunctioning the cockpit's landing system.
In no time, the pilots on board, Commander Rustom and Captain Sushant contacted the JFK ATC (Air Traffic Control) for landing assistance.
We’re really, you know, stuck and there’s no fuel,” Palia told the JFK Air Traffic Control (ATC).
What followed was the cockpit's report on the onboard landing system to the ATC,
We have some onboard instruments problem, and because of that we are not able to conduct the ILS (Instrument Landing System) for JFK, and now we are sitting for [an] alternate for what we can do
Further Commander Rustom said,
Basically, we’ve got a single source radio altimeter, we have a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System failure with no Auto-land, no wind shear systems, (no) Auto Speed Brake and the Auxiliary Power Unit is unserviceable as well.
Technically there are three ILS' (Instrument Landing System) in a Boeing 777-300, and unfortunately, all three were disrupted. The ILS is the critical system of the flying machine that helps it to align with the runway while landing during any weather, day or night, says NDTV.
After a series of conversations with the ATC, it was quite clear that the onboard systems for landing in the Boeing weren't responding. In its airborne state, the Boeing was using 7200 kg of fuel with each minute passing on the clock.
The pilots couldn't keep the Boeing in this state or take an alternative route. The dilemma was huge. With less fuel on board and a failed landing system, a decision was required to be made at the earliest.
Soon, the pilots on board called for an attempt to use a 'non-precision' approach and use functional navigation. Air India or even Boeing does not suggest the use of the non-precision approach, in any of its operational guidelines. Soon the pilots decided to land in Newark airport, as the clouds over the city were getting cleared. says The Better India.
The Newark airport informed the pilots that the Boeing was at a very low height from the runway. Within 38 seconds of the message, the flight landed.