Air India probes auto-pilot switch-off on passenger jet

File photo of Air India planes parked Air India says it takes all steps to ensure safety is not compromised

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Air India has said it is investigating an incident in which the auto-pilot system of a passenger jet was accidently switched off.

The Mumbai Mirror reported that a stewardess accidentally turned it off while the two pilots took a break.

Air India denied this but said cabin crew did "overstay" in the cockpit and that the autopilot was briefly disconnected "due to distraction".

The cabin crew and the pilot had been suspended pending an inquiry, it added.

The Mumbai Mirror reported on Friday that the incident took place on an Airbus 321 flying from Bangkok to Delhi on 12 April.

Citing an unnamed source in Air India, it said the two pilots had taken a 40-minute break from the cockpit and left two stewardesses in their seats to operate the plane in their absence.

Start Quote

Due to distraction the co-pilot touched the auto-pilot disconnect button momentarily”

End Quote Air India spokesman

One of the stewardesses accidentally turned off the auto-pilot, forcing the pilots to rush back to their seats, the report said.

'Summoned'

However, in an email to the BBC, an Air India spokesman said: "It is categorically stated that at no point of time the cockpit was left unattended by the cockpit crew.

"Based on a report that two cabin crew members were in the cockpit for a prolonged period on the flight, the airline management... summoned the cockpit and cabin crew for an enquiry.

"As the enquiry confirmed the overstay of the cabin crew in the cockpit, administrative action was taken against them and the pilot. They have been suspended pending the final enquiry of the incident."

The spokesman said that "due to distraction the co-pilot touched the auto-pilot disconnect button momentarily". "But the same was connected back," he added.

"At Air India, flight safety is paramount. We take all steps to ensure that safety is not compromised under any circumstances."

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