Two Air New Zealand pilots hav been suspended after a mid-air drama developed when the Captain locked the First Officer out of the cockpit.
The incident occurred on a B777-200, flight NZ176 from Perth to Auckland on May 21, the aircraft was carrying 303 passengers plus crew.
The captain locked himself inside of the cockpit and did not respond to requests to open the locked door during a period of two minutes, alarming crew.
Apparently an argument developed between the pilots because of a departure delay originated when the First Officer was called for a random drug and alcohol test.
“This departure delay frustrated the captain who prides himself on operational efficiency,” Air New Zealand’s manager of operational integrity and safety, Errol Burtenshaw, told AFP in a statement Sunday.
This incident has sparked calls for a third crew member to be added to flight decks so no one is ever alone in the cockpit.
Air NZ spokeswoman Marie Hosking said the first officer and crew became concerned after the captain did not respond to three requests over two minutes from a cabin crew member to open the cockpit door.
The first officer eventually used an alternative method to access the cockpit. For security reasons, the airline would not say how.
“Naturally, cabin crew operating the flight were concerned about the inability to contact the captain and became quite anxious,” said the national carrier’s operational integrity and safety manager Errol Burtenshaw.
They were offered the support of the company’s employee assistance programme after the flight.
Both pilots were stood down — the captain for two weeks and the first officer for a week, and given counselling and additional training.
“Both pilots have learned a valuable lesson around the need to communicate better with peers.”
He said the captain did not respond or open the door because he was approaching a navigational waypoint and in his cockpit monitor saw a cabin crew member rather than the first officer ringing.
The airline provided a report on the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority. Spokesman Mike Richards said it was satisfied with Air NZ’s actions.
Aviation commentator Peter Clark said the incident showed it was time all airlines put a third crew member in the cockpit. “After [the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight] MH370 there’s definitely questions being asked about whether there should be more than two people on the flight deck.”
Clark said there was no excuse for the Air NZ captain to not immediately respond to calls, given the MH370 mystery and the fate of other flights, including an Ethiopian Airlines flight hijacked by its asylum-seeking co-pilot this year.
“You can push a button and say ‘I’m busy’ … two minutes is an eternity when people reflect on MH370. The transponder can be turned off, the flight co-ordinates changed, the plane depressurised.
“It shouldn’t have happened.”
Source: The New Zealand Herald
Photos: Air NZ