ATC trainee puts 100 lives in jeopardy

Aug 17, 2012, 06:33 IST | Bipin kumar singh

The officer on duty at the Air Traffic Control at Mumbai airport gave the go-ahead to an Etihad Airways flight carrying 100 passengers to land on runway 09/27, oblivious that a Jet aircraft had already entered the same space.

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.

Mumbai Airport

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.

Etihad Airlines, landing at a runway, Jet aircraft, entered the same runway
The ATC gave clearance to an approaching international Etihad Airlines  flight for landing at a runway, overlooking the fact that a Jet aircraft had already entered the same runway

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.

ATC controller, pilot manning, aircraft
Entering the runway but receiving no further instructions, the pilot manning the Jet aircraft called the ATC controller, informing him that his aircraft was in 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.

blunder, Etihad Airlines flight, landing to go around
Realising his blunder, the controller quickly asked the Etihad Airlines flight, which was a minute away from landing to go around, and instructed the Jet aircraft to vacate the runway immediately. ILLUSTRATIONS/AMIT BANDRE

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. 

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