Three Indian Pilots Falsely Claimed They Were out of Fuel to Get Priority Landing
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The pilots of three Indian flights have been suspended after having lied to air traffic controllers that their aircraft were short on fuel, forcing them to bypass the half-dozen aircraft that were in queue ahead of them. According to an investigation by the country’s aviation safety regulator, the IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet aircraft faked the need for an emergency landing in order to get priority landing at Kolkata Airport (CCU) on November 30.
The IndiGo plane contacted ATC first to say it was out of jet fuel and needed to land, followed by Air India and finally the SpiceJet plane. As the investigation revealed, however, none of the three were near out of fuel — in fact, all of them had enough to get to another airport and attempt at least two landings. Or, they would have had enough to circle around CCU for at least 30 minutes according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
While this news is certainly unwarranted, it’s actually not all that shocking. Air passenger traffic in India is growing at double the pace of its closest rival China, so airport congestion is becoming a larger issue. As India gets more low-cost carriers, air traffic is up, and all of the competition requires that carriers differentiate themselves with selling points like on-time arrivals. But the airspace and room on the ground is so congested that, on average, a plane will spend about 45 minutes to an hour during peak periods circling Mumbai (BOM) before it can land.
The Indian DGCA is cracking down on this kind of bad behavior, causing serious safety violations, and for good reason. Especially when considering the recent crash in Colombia that killed 71, including a Brazilian soccer team. That aircraft was actually out of fuel, which is concerning in and of itself, but it’s also concerning to know that there are pilots “crying wolf” about such a serious issue.
Featured image courtesy of Mint via Getty Images.