Serb pilots defend colleague in Air India Express disaster

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Air India Express Boeing 737 similar to the aircraft that was involved in the accident.

The Serbian Pilots Association has defended the actions of the Serbian pilot aboard the Air India Express jet that crashed earlier this year, killing 158 of the 166 on board. Investigators have suggested he had failed to follow procedure and reacted slowly to trouble.

The Court of Inquiry found that captain Zlatko Glusica was sleeping through much of the three-hour DubaiMangalore flight and "disorientated" as the Boeing 737-800 came in to land; it overshot the clifftop runway on May 22 and ran over the edge. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, one survivor said: "Immediately on touching the ground, the aircraft jerked and in a few moments hit something. Then it split in the middle and caught fire. I just jumped from the gap."

Cquote1.svg Mangalore is a difficult field because it is on a plateau. From all accounts the visibility was all right. One can’t make any conclusions. Cquote2.svg

—Former Indian aviation official

The pilots' group has said Gluscia was fatigued owing to "pressures" flying in India and said he should not be "victimised". The airport the aircraft had been attempting to land at is considered a challenging one, as it is on a flat plateau bordered by a valley. A former official from India's aviation ministry said that "Mangalore is a difficult field because it is on a plateau. From all accounts the visibility was all right. One can’t make any conclusions."

Pilots questioned the role of First Officer H S Ahluwalia, who three times requested a go around during approach. "He should have taken over the controls, provided he was experienced and had the confidence to do so," one pilot said; another asked "[w]hat was the First Officer doing all the while? The non-handling pilot should take over the control if he or she thinks there’s going to be a crash, instead of sitting like a robot."

A statement by the association said "[t]he individualisation of guilt ... is intended to shift the responsibility from those who have driven the crew and the passengers to death." They feel the investigation "created an ugly picture about the Serbian pilots... without taking into account the circumstances" leading to the accident.

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