Why an Air India flight made unscheduled landing at New Jersey

Marco Green
September 20, 2018

However, there's always that 1% chance of things going south and an Air India flight happened to fall in that category.

Praising its pilots" "professional handling" of the incident with the Instrument landing System (ILS) failure, while landing at NY airport on September 11, 2018, Air India today said that handling of incidents like these "speaks volumes about the national carrier's enviable safety record'.

"The cockpit crew of the Air India Boeing 777-300 aircraft operating flight AI-101 of September 11, 2018, from Delhi (India) to NY successfully made a non-scheduled landing at New Jersey Airport braving adverse weather conditions and unexpected technical issues, and proving once again the class, expertise and experience of Air India's pilots to face any such eventuality and come out in flying colours".

"We're really, you know, stuck and there's no fuel", Palia told the JFK Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The aircraft had 370 passengers on board and tried to land at the airport but had failed, so they had to keep the plane airborne, in an attempt to find an airport near JFK or in a different city near NY, in coordination with the JFK ATC.

The pilots were approaching one of the most critical phases of flying-landing-while the AI 101 system was failing, and fast.

However, that was the tip of the iceberg.

Apart from these, the flight also witnessed the malfunctioning of all three of its Instrument Landing System (ILS) receivers on board the jet. This meant using the jet's Vertical and Lateral Navigation systems to simulate an Instrument Landing Approach into Newark.

Palia: "This Instrument Landing System is unpredictable because every time we turn towards the localiser, it is just gone".

"Your Instrument Landing System is out of service on both sides of the aircraft, right?"

Palia: "Uh, that's right, we are on a single radio altimeter now". These are a few moments during the crisis on board Air India 101. The pilot is referring to the height of clouds below which an aircraft can be flown making it easy for the pilots to spot the runway. The crew could not visually estimate an approach as heavy clouds hung low over NY on that day.

The crew managed to land the plane using navigation aids and their own wits - being met by emergency services at Newark. This meant using an out-of-box approach that they were never taught and is neither mentioned in the operational guidelines of the Boeing. And despite those odds, Singh and Palia managed to land safely 38 minutes after the plane had first started to malfunction.

According to the latest information, Air India has set up an inquiry on aircraft and constituted an internal inquiry under the monitoring of airlines Flight safety department. Because 370 lives isn't a joke and if it wasn't for Singh and Palia, we would be waking up to a very different headline today.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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