On January 25, 2022, passengers of an Air India flight faced difficulties at Srinagar airport in Jammu and Kashmir when the flight was delayed by an hour due to a dispute between a senior pilot and an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) over fuel.
According to the details, Air India flight AI 826 operated by an Airbus A321 was scheduled between Srinagar and New Delhi. On Tuesday afternoon, as the flight was getting ready for its scheduled departure time of 12:25 pm, a fight broke out between the pilot and the flight engineer over fuel imbalance issues.
According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the AME allegedly forced the pilot to operate the aircraft with a fuel imbalance. The argument picked up when the commandant, flying the Airbus fleet in the airline, brought to the notice of the ground staff that there was an imbalance of 1400kg of fuel.
It is pertinent to mention here that an imbalance of fuel means that the fuel in both the wings was not equally filled, due to which, according to the rules, take off is not allowed. Appropriately filled fuel tanks in both wings are essential to maintain the balance of the aircraft for a smooth and safe flight.
The AME allegedly forced the pilot to accept the aircraft in fuel imbalance condition. The pilot refused and insisted on balancing the fuel for its departure. The issue was raised repeatedly by the pilot, yet the engineer refused to listen to him. After which the pilot refused to fly the plane and insisted on balancing the fuel in both the wings.
The pilot reported the incident to the Air India management and alleged that the AME has behavioural issues. The complaint said, “Due to high security airport and that too next day (being) Republic Day (I) fail to understand why they want to ground the aircraft. Please look into it through a security angle and intentionally for grounding.”
A former airline official, who did not wish to be named, said, “This (is) a classic example of how the new trend in aviation is to fly compromising with the safety of passengers. The trend is seen more with the low-cost carriers coming into the market, which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis.”
Finally, another AME was called in after 35 to 40 minutes who fixed the fuel issue, and the flight departed after a nearly hour-long delay. An Air India spokesperson did not comment on the matter as yet.