Air India Pilot Flies Plane into “Coffin Corner”

It’s unfortunate that Air India always gets bad press and almost never seems to take responsibility for it or come out improving from their faults. My dad earlier this year talked about how they actually have a great soft product in terms of food, service, and the on ground experience. They actually have great award availability on most of their routes and have a large number of nonstop routes to the U.S now with the initiation of the San Francisco service last December.

Air India First Class has some of the best award availability in Star Alliance
Another image from my dad’s recent First Class experience

However safety incidents are becoming more and more common?  First there was the FA flying the plane, then the incident about the rats, and then letting drunk pilots keep their jobs.

Well now according to the Times of India, an Air India pilot flew a plane into the so called “coffin corner”, the altitude at which a plane’s controls are useless unless it maintains a very high speed. To put this in perspective this might have been one of the causes for the loss of Air France 447 over the Atlantic in 2009 according to some.  I’m no aviation expert, but I don’t see the reason why this pilot would need to reach such heights almost three times!

And to top it off Air India seems to want to let the pilot go without a psych eval or other suspension. Air India should be given credit for setting up thus investigation, but the committee is apparently full of the pilot’s long time buddies. Talk about corruption! Maybe that’s how the drunk pilots are also getting off the hook? 🙂

Since many of my readers are former pilot, current pilots, or aviation experts, I would love to hear more about the concept from you guys. When would a pilot need to reach “coffin corner”?

  • Pilot

    I am not familiar with coffin corner in this context. It is typically an area in the traffic pattern where a plane cannot recover to the runway should its engine fail. This area is, generally speaking, in the vicinity of the crosswind and downwind legs intersecting. But aircraft do have to fly increasingly faster as they ascend in altitude. This increase in speed is in true airspeed, not indicated airspeed or ground speed. As altitude increases the minimum airspeed also increases. At the same time stall speed increases and maximum airspeed decreases. These two airspeeds collapse on flying airspeed and that is how you can determine maximum altitude or service ceiling. The U-2 routinely flies in an envelope where it is always within a few knots of overspeed and stall speed.

    • Thanks for the insight! I was having trouble understanding which speed it was referring to and now I think I have a better idea.