I can fault Air India on the passenger experience, but they have perhaps some of the most experienced pilots on their rosters. It is their job to get you where you go and get you there safely. So while most of the aircraft flying is now believed to be computerised, the pilots are still the people who do the heavy lifting. And hence why experienced captains are always in demand.
This experience came handy last week when Air India had a flight which went massively wrong because of instrument failures. On September 11, AI 101 got ready for its usual mission between Delhi and New York JFK. What should have been a smooth flight, turned out to be a multiple instrument failure.
The equipment that would help the aircraft perform an instrument-based landing went kaput, and that meant the pilots had to attempt an old-style visual navigation landing. This came with its own challenges, given the pilots needed a high enough clear view without clouds to be able to attempt the VNAV. However, given the aircraft had been flying for over 14 hours, they did not have too much fuel to play around and divert very far.
Hear this interaction with the ATC at JFK. Everyone did a fabulous job holding their nerve and getting this plane on the ground. The recording is courtesy LiveATC.net.
Like you can hear, the plane safely made its way to Newark instead of JFK, and flew back the next day, perhaps empty. On September 13, the plane was back in service! Here is how the flight path looked towards arrival, courtesy FlightRadar24.
It is moments like these that make me proud of Air India. Perhaps their ground staff have quite a bit to learn from their flying crew about what Air India truly stands for.