An Air India Express plane reportedly landed into a ditch in 2017 because the Pilot In Command refused to pay heed to the suggestions of his co-pilot. The PIC in question was thirty years senior to his female co-pilot, with a difference of 13,000 hours in the flight experience between the two of them. But was it just the age gap or the experience which was responsible for a mishap which left three passengers injured? Why was it so difficult for the senior pilot to take advice from his junior colleague?
- An Air India Express plane landed into a ditch in 2017 because the Pilot In Command refused to listen to junior female co-pilot.
- Is age gap the only reason for this mishap?
- Gender gap is a huge problem across profession which leads to huge gaps in communication.
- It makes it difficult for people to work with their colleagues of opposite gender.
Was it just the age gap or the experience which was responsible for a mishap which left three passengers injured? Why was it so difficult for the senior pilot to take advice from his junior colleague?
One should note here that the female co-pilot made suggestions three times during the entire incident, as noted in the report, and the PIC chose not to pay heed to any of them. First the co-pilot told her senior that she could not see runway markings and asked him to go extremely slow. Then, as per the report by DGCA, she insisted that they summon a “follow-me” vehicle, which is used to guide aircraft in cases of low visibility. Even after the plane landed in the open water drain, the co-pilot requested PIC not to apply throttle, which he only went on to ignore. What does it take for a man so senior to completely ignore a colleague’s advice three times? Seniority? Arrogance? Sexism?
Is it just the age gap which caused the PIC to do as he pleased? I agree that age gap could be a valid reason for this lack of communication on the PIC’s part. But that is a valid excuse for overlooking his co-pilot’s suggestion once. You know a person is arrogant or doesn’t value your advice when they constantly ignore it. They have more trust in their capabilities and experience than your judgement. While it may seem right to trust your experience, the PIC should have also acknowledged the fact that his co-pilot when through the same training as he did. Her knowledge and instincts mattered just like his experience did.
While it may seem right to trust your experience, the PIC should have also acknowledged the fact that his co-pilot when through the same training as he did.
Another question this incident has raised is that are women more susceptible to such display of arrogance from male seniors from their field? There is no way of answering that question without making a generalised assumption and that would be unfair to both women and men. But yes, there is a vast gender gap and both genders struggle to reach out to each other for better communication and coordination. Men huddle with men, women huddle with other women. We see this in office spaces, parties and even in our drawing rooms.
The lack of general interaction among men and women seeps into professional lives. We are guarded about our own beliefs and agenda and often end up distrusting someone from the opposite gender simply because we aren’t used to of conducting and processing a dialogue with them. It can be due to ego, stereotypical outlook or just plain ignorance. But if we have to raise the percentage of women in work force and increase productivity while working with someone from the opposite gender, then we must find ways to deal with this gender gap.
As DGCA has openly referred to age gap as a viable reason for this mishap in their report, they also need to ask themselves whether or not gender gap plays a role here as well. With the number of women pilots on rise in aviation, men and women will have to fly planes together, huddled in the same cockpit. We cannot have them ignoring each other’s advice as it will put hundreds of lives in danger.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.