Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cessna's Citation Sovereign qualifies for operations between Los Angeles and Honolulu

by B. N. Sullivan

Cessna Citation SovereignThe Cessna Aircraft Company recently announced that Citation Sovereign Part 135 operators will now be able to conduct certain over-water flights, specifically Los Angeles to Hawaii, without requiring FAA Extended Operations (ETOPS) approval.

According to Cessna, analysis proves the aircraft can fly 1,022 nautical miles -- just over halfway between Hawaii and Los Angeles -- in less than 180 minutes at the engine-out flight profile. To qualify for the ETOPS exemption, a passenger aircraft flying with an engine out must never be more than 180 minutes from a suitable airport.

Technical details, provided by Cessna:
Cessna Engineering conducted an analysis using worst case weight and determined the Model 680 Sovereign is capable of traveling a distance of 1,022 nm in 180 minutes (under standard conditions in still air) after an engine failure. This analysis is based on a sea level takeoff at maximum takeoff weight (30,300 lbs), a direct climb to 43,000 feet using the Operating Manual multi-engine climb profile, followed by cruise at maximum cruise thrust.

At the engine failure point (1022 nm into the trip and weight of 26,209 pounds) the airplane drifts down using the Operating Manual drift down procedures to the drift down altitude. Upon reaching the drift down altitude, the airplane then descends at a rate of 3,000 fpm at a speed of VMO/MMO – 10 knots to 25,000 feet.

At 25,000 feet, the aircraft levels and cruises using maximum continuous thrust until starting the final descent to the diversion airport. The final descent is flown at a rate of 3,000 fpm and VMO -10 knots from 25,000 feet to 10,000 feet and then at 250 KIAS at idle thrust until reducing speed for landing.

This profile will support several of the over-water missions Sovereign operators desire to fly. The key in planning missions of this type is to maintain a maximum 1,022 nm or smaller radius from a suitable landing airport.

The operational guidance for this procedure will be included in the next revision (Revision 8) of the 680 Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) due out in early 2010.
“This is a response to customer requests for help in meeting this profile as L.A. to Honolulu is sure to be a popular route with Cessna’s charter operators,” said Roger Whyte, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

US Airways plans to scale back, close some crew bases, reduce work force by 1,000

by B. N. Sullivan

US Airways A320US Airways has announced plans to reduce its work force by about 1,000 in early 2010. Among the jobs cuts: about 200 pilots and 150 flight attendants. Roughly 600 ground workers also will be laid off.

Crew bases at Las Vegas and New York/La Guardia will be closed as of January 31, 2010; the Boston crew base will be eliminated in early May. Crew bases in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. will be retained.

Following what the carrier calls a 'realignment strategy', US Airways plans to consolidate its operations around its three hub cities -- Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix -- plus Washington, DC. Shuttle service between New York/LaGuardia Airport, Boston and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will continue.

Among the changes: reduction of the number of Las Vegas flights; closure of stations at Colorado Springs and Wichita; redeployment of 15 E-190 aircraft to the shuttle service; and suspension of five European destinations currently served from Philadelphia. The airline plans to return its Philadelphia-Beijing flight authority to the Department of Transportation (DOT) "until economic conditions improve, while retaining the option to reapply for this authority in the future."

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said, "By concentrating on our strengths we will be better positioned to return US Airways to profitability, which will result in a more consistent experience for our customers, better returns for our shareholders and greater job stability and career opportunities for our employees."

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FAA revokes licenses of Northwest Airlines 'laptop pilots'

by B. N. Sullivan

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew Minneapolis in an Airbus A320 after having been out of radio contact with the ground for a period of time. The incident happened on October 21, 2009 during a flight from San Diego to Minneapolis.

In a brief press release issued this morning, the FAA said, in part:
The pilots were out of contact with air traffic controllers for an extended period of time and told federal investigators that they were distracted by a conversation. Air traffic controllers and airline officials repeatedly tried to reach them through radio and data contact, without success.

The emergency revocations cite violations of a number of Federal Aviation Regulations. Those include failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances and operating carelessly and recklessly.

The revocations are effective immediately. The pilots have 10 days to appeal the emergency revocations to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the pilots said in interviews that, during the flight, they had been using their personal laptop computers while discussing airline crew flight scheduling procedures, and that this had caused them to be distracted.

Delta Air Lines, which owns Northwest Airlines, indicated yesterday that "Using laptops or engaging in activity unrelated to the pilots' command of the aircraft during flight is strictly against the airline's flight deck policies and violations of that policy will result in termination."

UPDATE Nov. 5, 2009: The two pilots involved in the Northwestern Flight 188 incident have filed appeals with the NTSB regarding the revocation of their licenses. They now face a hearing before a judge within the next 120 days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Northwest pilots who overflew Minneapolis tell NTSB they were engrossed, using laptops

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has just released a statement regarding its continuing investigation of the Northwest Airlines flight that overflew its destination last week after being out of radio contact with air traffic control for a period of time. The incident occurred on October 21, 2009. Northwest Airlines Flight 188, an Airbus A320, eventually resumed radio contact, turned around and landed safely -- albeit late -- at Minneapolis, its intended destination. The incident has garnered enormous media attention, so today's factual update from the NTSB is welcome.

Here is the actual text of today's NTSB advisory about Northwest Flight 188:
In its continuing investigation of an Airbus A320 that overflew the Minneapolis-St Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain Airport (MSP), the National Transportation Safety Board has developed the following factual information:

On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 5:56 pm mountain daylight time, an Airbus A320, operating as Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188, became a NORDO (no radio communications) flight at 37,000 feet. The flight was operating as a Part 121 flight from San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California (SAN) to MSP with 144 passengers, 2 pilots and 3 flight attendants.

Both pilots were interviewed separately by NTSB investigators yesterday in Minnesota. The following is an overview of the interviews:
  • The first officer and the captain were interviewed for over 5 hours combined.
  • The Captain, 53 years old, was hired in 1985. His total flight time is about 20,000 hours, about 10,000 hours of A-320 time of which about 7,000 was as pilot in command.
  • The First Officer, 54 years old, was hired in 1997. His total flight time is about 11,000 hours, and has about 5,000 hours on the A-320.
  • Both pilots said they had never had an accident, incident or violation.
  • Neither pilot reported any ongoing medical conditions.
  • Both pilots stated that they were not fatigued. They were both commuters, but they had a 19-hour layover in San Diego just prior to the incident flight. Both said they did not fall asleep or doze during the flight.
  • Both said there was no heated argument.
  • Both stated there was a distraction in the cockpit. The pilots said there was a concentrated period of discussion where they did not monitor the airplane or calls from ATC even though both stated they heard conversation on the radio. Also, neither pilot noticed
    messages that were sent by company dispatchers. They were discussing the new monthly crew flight scheduling system that was now in place as a result of the merger. The discussion began at cruise altitude.
  • Both said they lost track of time.
  • Each pilot accessed and used his personal laptop computer while they discussed the airline crew flight scheduling procedure. The first officer, who was more familiar with the procedure was providing instruction to the captain. The use of personal computers on the flight deck is prohibited by company policy.
  • Neither pilot was aware of the airplane's position until a flight attendant called about 5 minutes before they were scheduled to land and asked what was their estimated time of arrival (ETA). The captain said, at that point, he looked at his primary flight display for an ETA and realized that they had passed MSP. They made contact with ATC and were given vectors back to MSP.
  • At cruise altitude - the pilots stated they were using cockpit speakers to listen to radio communications, not their headsets.
  • When asked by ATC what the problem was, they replied "just cockpit distraction" and "dealing with company issues".
  • Both pilots said there are no procedures for the flight attendants to check on the pilots during flight.
The Safety Board is interviewing the flight attendants and other company personnel today. Air traffic control communications have been obtained and are being analyzed.

Preliminary data from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) revealed the following:
  • The CVR recording was 1/2 hour in length.
  • The cockpit area microphone channel was not working during this recording. However, the crew's headset microphones recorded their conversations.
  • The CVR recording began during final approach, and continued while the aircraft was at the gate.
  • During the hours immediately following the incident flight, routine aircraft maintenance provided power to the CVR for a few minutes on several occasions, likely recording over several minutes of the flight.
The FDR captured the entire flight which contained several hundred aircraft parameters including the portion of flight where there was no radio communication from the flight crew. Investigators are examining the recorded parameters to see if any information regarding crew activity during the portion of flight where radio contact was lost can be obtained.

The Safety Board's investigation continues.
So, no sleeping, napping or nodding off; no claim of fatigue; no 'heated discussion' or argument -- just two well-rested, very experienced pilots losing situational awareness for an extended period of time because of crew scheduling issues? (Makes you wonder: Just how complex is that bidding system, anyway?)

This story just gets 'curioser and curioser' and leaves so many questions still unanswered. How did they miss the handoff from Denver Center to Minneapolis Center? How could they not have noticed any ACARS messages or SELCAL communications? And so on...

In any case, that's all of the official information for now, folks! Stay tuned for future developments.

UPDATE: Delta Air Lines (which now owns Northwest Airlines) made a public statement about the incident, saying that the two pilots "remain suspended until the conclusion of the investigations into this incident." Then came this elaboration:
Using laptops or engaging in activity unrelated to the pilots' command of the aircraft during flight is strictly against the airline's flight deck policies and violations of that policy will result in termination.
Probable translation: "Those two pilots are SO fired..."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Divi Divi Air Britten-Norman Islander accident near Bonaire takes pilot's life

by B.N. Sullivan

Divi Divi AirOn October 22, 2009, a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander (registration PJ-SUN)ditched in the Caribbean Sea after losing power in the number two engine. The aircraft, operated by Divi Divi Air, was en route from Curaçao to Bonaire at the time of the accident. All nine passengers on the flight survived the impact and were able to exit the aircraft; they were rescued. The pilot did not survive.

The pilot has been identified as Robert Mansell, originally from England. News reports say that he was knocked unconscious in the crash, and passengers were unable to get him out of the aircraft before it sank.

Several news stories about the accident quoted a Divi Divi Air spokesman who called Mansell a "hero" saying, "All the passengers survived and he is the only one missing. If he wasn't a good pilot, he couldn't have ditched it so everyone could be saved."

Condolences to the family and friends of Captain Mansell.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Northwest pilots lose situational awareness, overfly destination

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating an incident in which a Northwest Airlines A320 aircraft overflew its destination by approximately 150 miles. The two pilots attributed the incident to a loss of situational awareness due to engaging in a 'heated discussion', according to a press release issued by The NTSB.

From the NTSB:
On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 5:56 pm mountain daylight time, an Airbus A320, N03274, operating as Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight 188, became a NORDO (no radio communications) flight at 37,000 feet.

The flight was operating as a Part 121 flight from San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California (SAN) to MSP with 147 passengers and unknown number of crew.

At 7:58 pm central daylight time (CDT), the aircraft flew over the destination airport and continued northeast for approximately 150 miles. The MSP center controller reestablished communications with the crew at 8:14 pm and reportedly stated that the crew had become distracted and had overflown MSP, and requested to return to MSP.

According to the Federal Administration (FAA) the crew was interviewed by the FBI and airport police. The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness. The Safety Board is scheduling an interview with the crew.

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) have been secured and are being sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, DC.
An article about the incident on the Wall Street Journal Web site suggested that the incident was "a possible case of pilots nodding off at the controls." Presumably an analysis of the CVR contents will clear up whether the pilots were indeed arguing, or whether the cockpit was silent during the period of no radio contact.

UPDATE: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has issued a statement about actions they took regarding the "unresponsive aircraft".
Fighters from two North American Aerospace Defense Command sites were put on alert yesterday for a Northwest Airlines commercial airliner that was not responding to radio calls from the Federal Aviation Administration. Before the fighters could get airborne, FAA re-established communications with the pilots of the Northwest Airlines commercial airliner and subsequently, the NORAD fighters were ordered to stand down. NORAD does not discuss locations of alerts sites.

UPDATE Oct. 23, 2009: This could be bad news for the investigation of this incident: A new NTSB press release mentions, "The 30 minute solid-state Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) captured a portion of the flight that is being analyzed." If the portion of the flight that the CVR captured is the final 30 minutes, it may not be able to resolve what was happening on the flight deck (and what was not) during the period of radio silence.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sudanese Boeing 707 freighter crash at Sharjah claims six lives

by B.N. Sullivan

A Sudanese-registered Boeing 707-300C freighter has crashed in Sharjah, UAE, claiming the lives of all six crew members on board. The aircraft (registration ST-AKW) was completely destroyed by the crash and the fire that ensued. No one on the ground was injured.

According to news reports, the accident occurred at about 15:30 local time on October 21, 2009, shortly after the aircraft departed from Sharjah International Airport, en route to Khartoum. The aircraft was operating as Flight SD 2241.

A Gulf News article about the accident quoted eyewitnesses who said that after taking off, the aircraft veered sharply to the right, flipped, and burst into flames as it impacted the ground.

Arabian Business reports: "The plane came down near the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club off Emirates Road at around 3.30pm. Officials said the black box had been found and that a full investigation would be carried out by the General Civil Aviation Authority."

News reports say that the remains of all six crew members have been recovered from the accident scene. All were Sudanese nationals. The aircraft was owned by Azza Air Transport and was leased by Sudan Airways.

Condolences to the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives.

NTSB investigating Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 taxiway landing at Atlanta

by B. N. Sullivan

Delta Air Lines aircraftYesterday, the Web was abuzz with rumors about a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 that had mistakenly landed on a taxiway at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL). Word of this incident generated a lot of chatter on Twitter and aviation message boards, although the details were sketchy at first. By late afternoon we all learned that the aircraft, which was arriving after a scheduled flight from Rio de Janeiro, had declared a medical emergency shortly before landing; that it had been cleared to land on ATL's Runway 27R; and that it had actually touched down on ATL's Taxiway Mike. Fortunately no one was injured.

The gist of all the conversation about this incident has centered on the question, "How could this happen?"

Apparently the U.S. National Safety Board (NTSB) intends to learn the answer to that question. A short time ago the NTSB announced in a press release that they would investigate the incident. Here is what the press release said:
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the landing of a Delta B-767 on an active taxiway at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL).

According to preliminary information received from several sources, on Monday, October 19, 2009, at 6:05 a.m. EDT, a Boeing B767-332ER (N185DN) operating as Delta Air Lines flight 60 from Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta landed on taxiway M at ATL after being cleared to land on runway 27R. No injuries to any of the 182 passengers or 11 crewmembers were reported.

A check airman was on the flight deck along with the captain and first officer. During cruise flight, the check airman became ill and was relocated to the cabin for the remainder of the flight. A medical emergency was declared and the company was notified by the crew. A determination was made to land at the scheduled destination of ATL.

The flight was cleared to land on runway 27R but instead landed on taxiway M, which is situated immediately to the north and parallel to runway 27R. The runway lights for 27R were illuminated; the localizer and approach lights for 27R were not turned on. Taxiway M was active but was clear of aircraft and ground vehicles at the time the aircraft landed. The wind was calm with 10 miles visibility.

Night/dark conditions prevailed; twilight conditions began at about 7:20 a.m. EDT and the official sunrise was at 7:46 a.m. EDT.

A team of four from the NTSB, led by David Helson, is investigating the incident.
This instance was not the first time a commercial aircraft mistakenly landed on (or took off from) a taxiway instead of a runway. It was this crew's good fortune that the taxiway was not occupied at the time they landed, so there was no collision, however the consequences could have been catastrophic.

I know there's a lot of speculation going on about this incident, not just within the aviation community, but among travelers as well. It's important for future safety to understand how this incident happened, of course, but everyone should remember that it's not possible to second-guess what happened on that flight deck. Now that the NTSB is involved, I think we can be reasonably confident that they will get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile, I hope everyone refrains from the 'blame game' while the investigation is underway. Let's remember that the purpose of such an investigation is to understand the process that led to the error, not to name culprits.

[Photo Source]

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boeing 777-300ER in OneWorld livery delivered to Cathay Pacific Airways

by B. N. Sullivan

Cathay Pacific B777-300ERBoeing has just delivered a new B777-300ER aircraft to Singapore-based leasing company BOC Aviation and its customer, Cathay Pacific Airways. The plane is Cathay Pacific's 12th B777-300ER, and its 29th 'triple-7' -- but this one is painted with a special OneWorld livery. The special livery commemorates 10th anniversary of the OneWorld alliance, of which Cathay is a member.

According to Boeing, the B777-300ER is 19 percent lighter than its closest competitor, greatly reducing its fuel requirement. It produces 22 percent less carbon dioxide per seat and costs 20 percent less to operate per seat. The airplane can seat up to 365 passengers in a three-class configuration and has a maximum range of 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 km).

Cathay Pacific is one of 11 airlines and 21 affiliate airlines that make up the OneWorld alliance.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NTSB says 2007 Citation crash into Lake Michigan caused by pilots’ improper actions

by B. N. Sullivan

NTSB logoOn the afternoon of June 4, 2007, a Cessna Citation 500 aircraft crashed into Lake Michigan shortly after departure from Milwaukee. The flight was part of a medical mission to transport a human organ for a transplant patient. On board were two pilots, and four passengers who were members of the University of Michigan transplant team; all six perished in the accident. Today the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report on that accident, citing as probable cause "the pilots’ mismanagement of an abnormal flight control situation through improper actions, including failing to control airspeed and to prioritize control of the airplane, and lack of crew coordination."

The Citation (registration N550BP) was operated by Marlin Air as a charter under the rules of 14 CFR Part 135. The NTSB report states: "Contributing to the accident were Marlin Air’s operational safety deficiencies, including the inadequate checkrides administered by Marlin Air’s chief pilot/check airman, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to detect and correct those deficiencies, which placed a pilot who inadequately emphasized safety in the position of company chief pilot and designated check airman and placed an ill-prepared pilot in the first officer’s seat."

The Flight

According to the NTSB report, the aircraft had departed General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, WI en route to Willow Run Airport, near Ypsilanti, MI. Shortly after rotation, the captain, the flying pilot, called for yaw damper activation and turned the airplane to the assigned heading. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) transcript indicated that the captain commented that he was "fighting the controls" -- a phrase that was repeated several times during climbout.

Less than a minute after rotation, the captain is heard saying, "I’m fighting the controls. It wants to turn left hard." The first officer asked about trim settings. The captain replied that there was something wrong with the rudder trim, but that he did not know the reason. Less than two minutes after rotation, the CVR records the captain saying, "Tell 'em we got to come back and land," and then, "She's rolling on me. Help me, help me."

The captain then told the first officer to pull the autopilot circuit breaker; the first officer responded “where is it?” By that time, the aircraft had leveled off and its air speed was about 270 knots.

The crew contacted Milwaukee approach, declared an emergency, and asked to land on "any runway". Around that time, the aircraft began a descending left turn back toward the airport. The airspeed remained about 250 knots. The captain relinquished control of the aircraft to the first officer, saying, "You hold it, I’m gonna try to pull circuit breakers." Moments later, barely three minutes after takeoff, the aircraft crashed into Lake Michigan.

NTSB Findings

The accident aircraft did not have a flight data recorder, so the NTSB could not determine the exact nature of the initiating event of the accident. However, said investigators, "the evidence indicated that the two most likely scenarios were a runaway trim or the inadvertent engagement of the autopilot, rather than the yaw damper, at takeoff."

Quoting the NTSB:
The Board further noted that the event was controllable if the captain had not allowed the airspeed and resulting control forces to increase while he tried to troubleshoot the problem. By allowing the airplane's airspeed to increase while engaging in poorly coordinated troubleshooting efforts, the pilots allowed an abnormal situation to escalate to an emergency.

Therefore, the NTSB concluded that if the pilots had simply maintained a reduced airspeed while they responded to the situation, the aerodynamic forces on the airplane would not have increased significantly. At reduced airspeeds, the pilots should have been able to maintain control of the airplane long enough to either successfully troubleshoot and resolve the problem or return safely to the airport.
The report goes on to fault Marlin Air for operational safety deficiencies that contributed to the accident.
Results from the Board's investigation indicated that the captain did not adhere to procedures or comply with regulations, and that he routinely abbreviated checklists. Subsequently, the NTSB concluded that the pilots' lack of discipline, lack of in-depth systems knowledge, and failure to adhere to procedures contributed to their inability to cope with anomalies experienced during the accident flight.
The accident captain was Marlin's company chief pilot and check airman. The NTSB report states:
If the Federal Aviation Administration guidance regarding check airman appointments and oversight contained procedures for principal operations inspectors to follow (such as heightened surveillance) in cases where review of the pilot’s background or performance reveals negative information, checkride failures, or other performance-related deficiencies, the agency might prevent inadequate and/or undisciplined pilots from being appointed or retained as check airmen.
The investigation found that the captain’s pilot certificates "had previously been revoked because of a felony conviction involving the illegal transport of drugs into the United States," although the FAA had reissued his pilot certificates, and they were valid at the time of the accident. Among the 16 safety recommendations to the FAA contained in this accident report was this one:
Revise check airman approval and oversight procedures to incorporate heightened surveillance during a probationary period and at other times as warranted for check airmen whose background evaluation ion uncovers a history of criminal convictions, certificate revocations, checkride failures, or other performance-related deficiencies. (A-09-XX)
Here are the links to the Narrative Report, Findings and Safety Recommendations and the Flight Path Animation and CVR Transcript for this accident.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ta daa! JetBlue unveils new livery

by B. N. Sullivan

JetBlueJetBlue unveiled its new livery this evening in a ceremony at Orlando. They are calling the tailfin design 'Blueberries' (but I think it looks more like blue soap bubbles).

According to a series of tweets on @JetBlue's Twitter feed, the Blueberries design will be applied to several more planes and "the larger logo will roll out as planes need repainting and Blueberries tailfin will be added to the fleet with the others."

The photo here came from JetBlue's Flickr feed. There are lots more photos there from tonight's livery unveiling ceremony. Go there to have a look at the rest of the new aircraft paint job, too.

We'll all be watching for the Blueberries now.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Video: Gulfstream G650 Roll-out at Savannah

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation's new Gulfstream G650 ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet rolled out of the hangar under its own power on September 29, 2009 at Gulfstream's Savannah, Ga., headquarters.

If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.

Hat tip to YouTube user AvionicsVideos for posting the G650 video.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

In-flight scuffle: Air India pilots and cabin crew 'get physical' at FL300

by B. N. Sullivan

Air India MaharajahThis isn't the kind of story I usually write about here on Aircrew Buzz. Fortunately.

News media in India are reporting on a rather sensational story about a fight among several crew members during an Air India/Indian Airlines* flight. That's right, an in-flight fight -- an actual physical fight -- as in duking it out!

As best I can figure out from several news stories, the scuffle took place on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 on board an Airbus A320 while the aircraft was in cruise at 30,000 ft over Pakistan. The incident happened on Indian Airlines Flight IC 884, a scheduled passenger flight from Sharjah to Delhi, with an intermediate stop at Lucknow. Reports say that there were seven crew members and 106 passengers on board the flight. Two crew members -- a pilot and a flight attendant -- were injured. No passengers were involved.

The physical fight is said to have taken place on the Sharjah to Lucknow leg of the trip, although at least one news story mentioned that the disagreement may have begun on the ground before departure from Sharjah. In any case, as The Times of India tells it, "two members of the cabin crew -- one male and one female -- slugged it out with the pilot and co-pilot," adding that they "came to blows in the cockpit and galley."

More from The Times of India:
No party denied that blows and abuses were exchanged as bewildered passengers looked on. Sources said that the female cabin crew member and the co-pilot sustained bruises.

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 has also ordered a probe.

There were unconfirmed reports that at one stage the cockpit was unmanned, as the crew was busy fighting outside. Things allegedly degenerated to the point where the captain threatened to divert the plane to Karachi, likening the situation, sources said, to a "hijack".
Good grief!

Then we move along to a he said/she said account of what transpired. Cabin crew representatives told The Times that "when the woman crew member went into the cockpit, one of the pilots held her hand and then pushed her out of the cockpit," and that she "hit the cockpit door with such force that she started bleeding." At that point the male purser said he went to the cockpit to ask what was happening, but that the pilots "got abusive and started a fight with him."

In the pilots' version, the female flight attendant made a P.A. announcement that differed from what the captain had instructed her to say, so the pilot "scolded" her and called the purser to the cockpit. The pilots' representative said that the purser "became abusive, and tempers ran high in the cockpit." That's when the commander threatened to divert to Karachi. The source went on to explain that the woman crew member "got bruised when she entered the cockpit."

Yes, apparently she really was bruised, a fact confirmed when she visited a hospital after the flight. The woman also "has pressed charges of assault and sexual harassment against the commander and co-pilot," according to a story about the fracas on the Web site. published a quote from the female crew member, who said, "The commander tried to physically abuse me. When I resisted, he pushed me outside the cockpit." She claimed she was touched at "inappropriate places."
Joint Commissioner (Operations) Satendra Garg said, "A case has been registered under Sections 354, 323 and 34 of IPC accusing the co-pilot and commander of molestation, passing derogatory remarks outraging modesty, and simple hurt. We have got the medical examination done and will take the version of the accused."
All four crew members have been derostered while an investigation of the incident is being carried out. Both the airline and India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) are looking into the matter.

*Note: Indian Airlines and Air India, India's two state-owned airlines, were merged into one entity in 2007. They operate as Air India, but I am told that certain flights are designated as Indian Airlines flights, and bear the 'IC' flight numbers.