Crew Age, Experience Gap Cited In Taxiway Accident

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India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had some unusual crew resource management advice for Air India Express after a seasoned captain dumped a Boeing 737-800 in a drainage ditch at Cochin Airport in April of 2017 despite repeated warnings from his much younger female first officer. In its report, the DGCA tribunal said the airline shouldn’t put old left seaters in the cockpit with young FOs. “Air India Express shall ensure proper crew pairing taking into consideration age factor, experience etc.,” the DGCA said in its safety recommendations in the report. What the recommendations didn’t say is that while the 28-year-old FO had only a fraction of the time the 59-year-old captain had, she had regularly flown into Cochin over the previous eight months while it was just the fifth trip there for the captain.

The captain was pilot flying when the aircraft touched down in heavy rain just after 11 p.m. The ground controller told the crew to take Taxiway Foxtrot to go to their gate. The FO told the captain she was having a hard time seeing the taxiway markings and signs. She recommended they call for a “follow me” vehicle to lead them to the gate. The captain pressed on and the FO told him when he’d passed Taxiway Echo and that Foxtrot was next. About 200 feet before Foxtrot, the captain turned left and put the Boeing into the concrete drain, collapsing the nosegear and coming to rest on its engines and tail with the mains hanging in the channel. Despite the FO’s pleas, the captain added power three times to try to bull out of the ditch but finally gave up. No one was hurt but the aircraft was heavily damaged. Cause of the crash was the “incorrect judgment of the PIC” in turning before the taxiway. It also said fatigue and poor visibility were contributing factors along with “disagreement of PIC with co-pilot for requesting ‘Follow Me’ jeep at Taxiway C.”