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With unfavourable weather conditions, low fuel and system failure, Air India pilot saved all 370 on board

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An Air India flight between New Delhi and New York carrying approx 370 passengers on board had a narrow escape as the pilot of the flight managed to land the plane safely. Air India pilot saved all 370 on board despite the unusual combination of electronic glitch, bad weather and lack of fuel.

The incident took place on September 11 when Air India flight AI-101 was about to land at John F Kennedy airport in New York. After a close to 15-hour ordinary flight, one of the longest nonstop flights in the world, what extended in the next 38 minutes was the worst nightmare for the pilots.

The flight commander Captain Rustom Palia, was absolutely calm, disproving what he was telling the Air Traffic Control at JFK – “Autoland is not available. We have multiple equipment breakdowns,” he said, followed by the equally alarming “We’re really, you know, stuck and there’s no fuel”, sources reported.

The weather conditions were not favorable too, and what was to chase was the most crucial phase of the flight – landing.

All three Instrument Landing System (ILS) receivers on board the Boeing 777-300 which is one of the world’s highly developed planes, had left with the commander a single source radio altimeter and a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System failure.

All the other important pieces of equipment such as Windshear, auto-land, auto speed break and auxiliary power unit (APU) were also off-road, the flight commander told the ATC. According to the situation that the crew was facing, they would have to manually land the huge jet without the aid of the host of systems designed to help the process.

Together with the cloudy weather, it was unfeasible to go ahead with the landing at JFK and the pilot decided to land the plane at Newark. There was no fuel to wait further for the suitable weather conditions.

Using a creative approach by the pilot he landed the plane safely by mimicking the equipment landing system with the help of the jet’s vertical and lateral navigation systems. The amazing thing is Boeing has not mentioned this technique in its operational guidelines, and Air India does not provide any specific training for the same.

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