- An Air India pilot spent over an hour in the cockpit with a “female friend” on a flight to Dubai in February.
- According to a complaint reported by Indian media, he asked cabin crew to serve her food and alcohol.
- On Monday, Air India reminded its 1,800 pilots of the “sterile” cockpit rule, reports say.
Air India had to remind its pilots to keep cockpits “sterile” after being rebuked by regulators when a pilot let a friend onto the flight deck, the Hindustan Times reported.
The pilot from the national airline – which was state-owned until 2021 – spent over an hour in the cockpit with the woman on a Delhi to Dubai flight, according to a complaint seen by the newspaper.
The captain also asked for the cockpit to “appear welcoming, warm and comfortable, as though he was preparing his living room for a lady friend,” aviation news site SimpleFlying reported.
A cabin crew member filed the complaint with Air India four days after the February 27 incident, but the country’s aviation watchdog wasn’t involved until April 21.
According to the Times of India, the complaint also said that the pilot asked the crew member to bring his friend “drinks and snacks” and “serve her in the cockpit.”
“I told him, ‘Captain, I am not comfortable serving alcohol in the cockpit’,” the complaint adds, saying that the pilot then became “snappy and rude” toward other the crew member.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation then issued notices to Air India CEO, Campbell Wilson, and its head of safety, for taking too long to report it, per the HT. It also took the whole crew off the flight roster pending investigation.
On Monday, Air India warned all its pilots — numbering over 1,800 per the Economic Times — reminding them of the sterile cockpit rule. It says that any non-essential activities are forbidden in the cockpit during the critical phases of flight, meaning when the plane is below 10,000 ft.
“Recent incidents have highlighted that there have been instances of a lapse in maintaining a sterile cockpit, which resulted in avoidable errors posing flight safety hazards,” Air India said, per the Hindustan Times.
The sterile cockpit rule was first adopted by the US’s Federal Aviation Administration in 1981, after accidents like Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 were attributed to unnecessary conversation between pilots.
A spokesperson for Air India told Insider it is conducting an internal investigation into the incident alongside the regulator’s independent inquiry.
“The pilot in command of the flight has been chargesheeted following an internal inquiry by Air India and the crew is off-rostered as instructed by DGCA,” they added.