Some weird aviation stories have been coming out of India lately. Six years ago if you had a commercial licence and the right to work in India, you had a jet job. Airlines were expanding so quickly that just maybe not everyone got the training or screening they might have in other times.
The first story I see is of a check pilot surreptitiously disabling the aircraft in which he was riding, in order to see what the pilot would do. The check pilot is an observer, a passenger in the aircraft. He shouldn't be so much as turning on a light switch, let alone pulling important circuit breakers, literally behind the pilot's back.
So the first officer is flying the airplane when all of a sudden the autopilot cuts out--I assume Boeing is clever enough to have designed the autopilot such that the disconnect warble is on a different circuit breaker and is still audible, but that I don't know for sure. At the same time, the flight director disappears, so the pilots has to control the airplane himself and decide where it should go. The pilots do notice the problem and the commander takes control, but with an excessive sink rate. The aircraft was recovered and landed without damage.
Oddly to me, the analysis in the newspaper piece appears to claim that the lacl of an EGPWS put the airplane in this situation. I've watched numerous people land 737s by hand, and the only time I heard the GPWS alert was when the runway was in a steep valley and the airplane had to pass over a cliff to remain on the approach path. The pilots didn't react to the warning except to silence it, because they were in control of the airplane and were expecting that warning on that approach. Perhaps in the Jet Airways case a functional EGPWS would have pointed out the problem with the approach a little sooner, but according to the article they were on the ILS. Surely the fly up indication on the integrated HSI would have been given that information.
It's true that ICAO standards call for such aircraft to have a functioning EGPWS, and that they probably would have prevented some accidents, but when the ILS is working properly, staying on slope will cover that territory for you.
I suppose stupid check pilot stunts follow from flight instructor practices in much simpler aircraft. An instructor, in visual conditions, might turn off the master, pull the mixture or shut off the fuel to one engine, or remove a light bulb from a gear position indicator. It's good to verify that a student's reaction is the same as that rehearsed when the failure is simulated or simply described. I remember an instructor of mine who shut off the fuel to one engine in cruise while I was learning. When the engine faltered I ran a quick cause check, and discovered the fuel valve position. I immediately corrected it, and the engine restarted--I'm not sure it had entirely stopped--so I returned to normal flight. The flight instructor was going "but ... no... wait ..."
"What?" I asked, wondering what I had missed. "The fuel valve was switched off." It honestly didn't occur to me until that moment that I was supposed to leave it off and feather the propeller as if I didn't know what had caused it. (I've done that sort of thing more than once. If an instructor fakes a failure by a means other than briefed, I treat the fake, not the failure).
I've also been with an instructor in an airplane with electrically operated landing gear who routinely pulled the circuit breaker after the gear was confirmed down, to guard against accidental retraction. I didn't really like it, but I can see the argument for it. I know of a case in that same type where there was a n accident because a student raised the gear on the runway. And I know of another where there was a problem getting the gear down because the gear CB had been routinely pulled and wouldn't stay set. Circuit breakers are not switches.
Here's a digest article describing other Indian airline mishaps lately. I hope it is just a combination of statistical anomaly and sudden focus of the national news media on everything aviation related, rather than a real symptom of problems. Right after I wrote my next sentence as "the same goes for the number of times American Airlines has been in the news lately," I read Captain Dave's blog on the Jamaica runway overrun. There's so much that can go wrong in that moment in the dark, there is not room for stupid pilot tricks. As Dave says, Fate is out hunting you. No need to go looking for it.