Air India Plane Diverts After Pilots Forget To Retract Landing Gear

There’s never a shortage of stories from Air India…

The Times Of India reports on the latest incident, which happened on Saturday’s Air India flight 676 from Kolkata to Mumbai. The Airbus A320 had to divert to Nagpur due to a fuel shortage, which was caused by the pilots forgetting to retract the landing gear. In the after takeoff checklist it’s standard procedure for pilots to retract the landing gear, and it typically happens just second after takeoff.

Except this time around the pilots forgot, and allegedly they realized it only halfway through the journey, at which point they were low on fuel and had to divert (having the landing gear down significantly increases drag, and therefore fuel burn). Per the story:

“The pilots are supposed to check fuel at intervals through the trip, which they might not have done. Also, the A320 couldn’t climb beyond 24,000 feet,” the source added.

The fast rate at which the A320 guzzled fuel left the pilots with no option but to divert to Nagpur airport to refuel. Before takeoff, the aircraft is loaded with enough fuel not just to last the journey, but also to circle, taxi and fly to an alternative airport if it’s not possible to land at the destination. But halfway through the almost two hour, 45 minute flight, they were left with not enough fuel to complete the journey safely. “The pilots began to prepare the aircraft for landing and it was only when they decided to put down the landing gear that they realised that it was down all along,” the source added.

This is puzzling, because typically an A320 would cruise at more than 24,000 feet. Furthermore, there’s no way the plane was cruising at maximum speed if the landing gear was out. So if the above description is accurate, it sounds like they knew there was something wrong, but between the two of them they really couldn’t figure out that the problem was that the landing gear wasn’t retracted? It’s especially shocking when you think of the amount of noise and vibration that occurs when the landing gear “door” is open. Ouch!

Air India has confirmed that both pilots have been taken off their rosters, and that an investigation is being done.

Comments

  1. Obviously there are many issues here, but it’s crazy the wheels create that much extra drag.

  2. That’s Air India for you.

    How the hell were they admitted into Star Alliance? I thought that alliance had standards to keep.

  3. Lucky, Times of India, in many ways is the Dailymail of India! Don’t take them or any other Indian media outlet seriously, especially for aviation reporting. Wait for Avherald to report it or DGCA to publish its report.

  4. Years ago I was on an A320 out of O’Hare. It was a hot day with a long taxi way and many aircraft before us causing a lot of start and stops before departure. Once in the air the captain made an announcement that the brakes had overheated and he was going to lower the gear to cool the brakes off. The noise and drag felt at 20,000 feet was incredible. There is NO way this crew could have not known the gear was down.

  5. @Max – I think Star Alliance lost standards the day United was allowed to remain after beating the hell out of passengers and one of the worst on time performance.

  6. I’m an A320 captain so I can give you all a little additional info on this. If the pilots did forget to raise the landing gear (this is very difficult to do due to the way the system displays work) cruise flight with that much additional drag doubles fuel burn. This means average fuel burn would go from 6000 lbs per hour to 12000. That much additional fuel burn would deplete the fuel reserves very fast. That being said, the noise from the landing being extended is not as loud in the cockpit as it is in the cabin, the nose gear is about 12 ft behind the pilots under the forward galley. However I can’t see how they could fly that long and not have realized it was down. You have landing gear indicator lights that would have been green the whole time showing that it was In the down and locked position. Also the system display ( bottom center EFIS screen) would have shown the gear position as down and not switched to the normal cruise system page.

  7. Peter: It’s called Physics and no amount of deep, mystical thinking by you will diminish the effects of a lousy coefficient of drag on an aerospace vehicle at 24k ft.

    What’s “crazy” is your willingness to openly display not one iota of knowledge of aerodynamics. I’m curious: What would your uneducated guess be as to the effect of acft wheels down and locked? 10% drag? 30? What # would you consider not “crazy”? Based on WHAT? (See Rob comment below yours.)

  8. I always thought the calls were v1, v2, positive rate, gear up. Something most odd happened here.

  9. Capt Obvious you are correct about Peter.

    Of course you do that and I didn’t have to say it but Peter has to read it.

  10. Seriously? How do they not know the landing gear is down? Its a checklist item, you can tell by the way the plane handles not to mention the lever positions all the lights and there is probably an alert as well. So either the pilots are totally incompetent or the plane was malfunctioning in a major way. No matter what this signals to me to never fly this airline.

  11. The A320 flying for Air India are aged aircraft which are already very noisy hence I guess the Women pilots did not realise the noise was due to the landing gear not pulled up as they must have thought it was the regular noises associated with the old planes!

    Thank God this ended well.

  12. I flew the 320 for 18 years. The noise would have been overwhelming.

    We’re not getting the true story.

  13. The copilot was sitting in the business class and the copilot seat was occupied by a flight attendant which they call air hostess 😉 by the way. So while the pilot was “hosting someone”, he forgot to retract the landing gear. On a serious note, I believe the drag with the open landing gear along with the low altitude both affected the fuel efficiency.

  14. @Capt Obvious Lay off Peter. Sorry, but not everyone here has advanced degrees in aerodynamics. Obviously wheels down increases drag. I’m just as surprised as he was to read that it creates enough additional drag to double fuel burn. Please have some respect.

  15. I was under the impression that most aircraft have a maximum speed for having the landing gear deployed and anything faster could damage the struts.

  16. Capt. Obvious,
    Woah there tough guy. Chill out. Peter used the word “crazy” as an expression. Relax. He was saying, “Wow, I’m surprised that landing gear can create that much drag.” I don’t see what’s wrong with him saying that.

    He hardly deserved the tongue lashing you gave him.

  17. @sarthak – This article is about Air India, not United. Please also get your facts right before slandering another airline. And United’s OTP is exceptional.
    – Back on topic, this is absurd and I’d love to know how this is even possible.

  18. @Capt. Obvious – that comment actually made me laugh out loud. Thanks for the entertainment. You should change your name, because you obviously did not pick up on the use of expression/hyperbole, as Matt so kindly pointed out. You seem like you’d be a blast at parties, though.

  19. @Rob, Would it be possible to attain normal cruise speed on an A320 with the gear down? Also, wouldn’t having the gear down create additional problems since it seems that the plane would need to fly with an abnormal nose-up attitude and power settings to maintain level flight with the added drag? Are those things the autopilot would be concerned about?

  20. They forgot. Wow, they didn’t even notice? Weird because it would cause terrible turbulence and drag. I’ve been on an a A320 myself.

  21. Just read on Avgeek news that it was a brand new A320NEO.
    The women pilots later expressed disbelieve that the passengers didn’t report the loud noise. quieter in the cockpit. Also they were not able to climb more than 24,000 ft and speed couldn’t go more than 260 knts

  22. The spooky thing is that third world countries China India etc lack the flight school capacity to train aircrew as fast as they need them. So India for example sends waves of student pilots over here to Canada for training as it is an ex-British Commonwealth country. English is the universal language of air communications so at some point there is a pass/fail decision as to whether the students language skills are adequate. Failing a student means no more revenue for that flight school. So a pass is better in many ways than is a fail. Whether the pronunciation is good or not. Similarly radio operator certificates are “”converted””. The student pilot goes thru radio training in UK or Canada (USA not accepted) then hands over their Canadian or UK radio certificate and eventually receives an Indian replacement. Just read accident reports to see how often radio words are misunderstood by pilots whose first language is not English.

  23. Why are some of you obsessed with mentioning that these were ‘women pilots’? The history of aviation is littered with disasters when men were at the controls yet I’ve never seen a post on here saying ‘the male pilots’. It’s utterly irrelevant.

  24. No Matt, it isn’t irrelevant. Every male pilot read that article in disbelief… down to the word “women pilots”…. at that point all collectively went “ahhhhh”.

    Be as PC as you like. The reality is different.

    It once happened at my old airline, to a women, and the reason that it wasn’t immediately obvious was because she was wearing a noise cancelling headset, whilst chatting shit. After time the additional noise becomes background music.

    And no, it isn’t a checklist item on the a320. There is no warning light, or checklist to make sure you have put the gear up. There are speed and altitude limitations, of course, but the computer won’t stop you exceeding them if you try. According to the article, they didn’t climb above 20,000ft anyway due to performance issues.

  25. @ Matt . . . Matt, it really is quite revelant that both the pilots were women. I worked as an expat captain for a major LLC airline in India and was shocked at the level of experience, or more correctly, inexperience, the airlines required for employment of female first officers. While their logbooks may have recorded the “required experience/hours,” it was very obvious they did not actually have the hundreds of hours logged. I found that the young women I worked with did not have 300-400 hours of experience but had one (1) hour of experience 300-400 times. I even had one FO that had NEVER made any actual takeoffs or landings in the aircraft but had only flown the simulator. (And yes I know that experienced pilots are typed rated with only simulator time . . . The key word is experienced.). The DGCA had a crackdown on flight schools several years back due to the falsification of records for ALL student pilots. However, in the rush to be PC (propaganda compliant) it seemed to be a priority to get women into the pilot ranks regardless of experience. I had to quit as they couldn’t pay me enough to put up with conducting primary flight training while carrying passengers. Thank God that Boeing builds a fine single pilot 737NG.

  26. What I find odd is that the women pilots never bothered with the checklist. Also could the fact the 99 people were on board have anything to do with it? How does that Jay-Z sone go? Oh the irony

  27. Not the first time I have read about such an embarrassing error. At the least, it wasn’t the alternative, where pilots have forgotten to lower the landing gear during preparations for landing (an unfortunate error which has occurred more instances that it ever should have).

  28. When I noticed the Headlines for this story, I started to look into it and I came across this post/blog:

    Apparently the pilots (both female) became aware that the gear was stuck down because of the high fuel consumption. The gear was stuck down because the ground crew didn’t remove the gear lock pins before pushback,

    But what we now need to know is; was the ground crew male or female?

  29. @Martin K. Both female pilots were stated to have forgotten to raise the landing gear and were unaware of it, despite all other poor aircraft performance issues, for 90 minutes. After take-off and positive climb rate is secured, one of the first things to do is raise the landing gear.
    Don’t attempt to “white knight” for women. I might also guess engineering ground crews doing dangerous, dirty, physical work are male since females are either too inferior and/lazy to do it.

  30. The issue should be competence, not gender…..history, aviation and otherwise, aptly demonstrates that…

  31. I’ve had about 26,000 + hrs in the air and I wonder what these pilots would have done if there was a real emergency like the “windshield wipers” didn’t work – ?

  32. @nigelsuper400. Just to be clear on one fact I will be a white knight or devils advocate for both genders when I observe a person/s is being dumped on when contributing factors are not being noted.

  33. I won’t place much faith in the Times of India reporting. That said there are rumors that the ground crew was at fault as they did not remove the pin holding the under carriage. The pilots became aware but had to make a choice of dumping fuel and returning to Calcutta or continuing with the under carriage down and landing at Nagpur which is midway between Calcutta and Mumbai. They chose I guess the second option. I am sure there is an investigation going on but I am not holding my breath as I know the Union problem at Calcutta and so the ground crew may get away with it and eventually the pilots too may get back to flying.

  34. Australian Human rights Commission has just convinced the RAAF to reduce training requirements to get more female pilots.

  35. @Bernardo Ng

    Did you read what happened to Air Canada recently? About the near miss when the pilot nearly landed on a taxiway? He could have blown up three other jets waiting to take off full of fuel in their tanks.

    What “world” does Air Canada belong to, in your esteemed opinion? First, second or third world?

    Comments like yours are just ignorant and discriminatory. Errors can happen in any cockpit. Because cockpits have humans in them, not countries.

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