Flyers on board an international Etihad Airlines flight had a close shave on August 9, when the controller on duty at Air Traffic Control (ATC) cleared its landing on a runway, conveniently forgetting that another aircraft had entered the same runway.
The passengers were saved because of the prompt action taken by the pilot of the aircraft on the runway, who realised that something was amiss and immediately called up the ATC, asking for clearance. Realising its blunder, the controller then asked the approaching aircraft to go around.
Jet Airways aircraft VTJBR, while shifting from one bay to another, was asked to proceed through a designated taxiway. The aircraft entered runway 09/27, and upon receiving no further instructions from the ATC, the pilot rang up the control room, which in the meantime was busy clearing the landing of the Etihad airlines flight on the same runway, oblivious that the Jet aircraft had already entered the runway.
“The Jet aircraft wrongly entered the runway on which a landing had been cleared. The landing was about 2.6 nautical miles away from the runway, which is a hair’s breadth, considering that the minimum distance between a landing and take-off is six nautical miles.
It was the pilot of the Jet aircraft who realised his mistake and informed the ATC controller who was not even aware of this development. The landing aircraft was later asked to go around and the Jet aircraft was asked to vacate the runway fast,” said a source at Mumbai airport. The Etihad aircraft was barely one minute away from landing and had the Jet pilot not informed the ATC, catastrophe was inevitable, sources further revealed.
Sources further revealed that while briefing the incident to aviation regulatory DGCA, the ATC offered the bizarre excuse that the controller handling the operations at the time was not trained well enough to handle surface movement radar.
The matter is currently being investigated by the DGCA. R K Khanna, deputy director general, DGCA western region, was out of town and not available for comment. Jayant Dasgupta, GM, ATC, could not be reached for comment.
“A Jet Airways Boeing 737 while being repositioned by an AME from international to domestic terminal inadvertently entered N5 taxiway instead of taxiway N1. The AME immediately stopped the aircraft and informed ATC, who advised him to return via runway 27,” said a Jet Airways spokesperson.