Mumbai: Air India, Vistara flights avoid mid-air crash by mere seconds

Feb 11, 2018, 11:30 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Preliminary evidence suggests a miscommunication between the Air Traffic Control and the two Vistara Pilots, based on which the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has grounded them

AeroplanesRepresentational Picture

In a shocking incident, a Vistara flight and an Air India flight missed a mid air collission by seconds on February 7 around 8pm. The incident happened over the Mumbai skies and is one of the closest shaves that the country has witnessed in years.

With nearly 200 passengers' lives having been put at stake, a serious note is being taken of the incident. The Vistara flight, UK 997 was on its way from Delhi to Pune, while Air India's AI 631 was flying from Mumbai to Bhopal.

While the Air India aircraft was maintaining a level of 27,000 feet, Vistara's Airbus descended to a height of 27,100 feet. This meant that the vertical separation between the two aircrafts was merely 100 feet, while the lateral separation between them was 2.8km. Preliminary evidence suggests a miscommunication between the Air Traffic Control and the two Vistara Pilots, based on which the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has grounded them.

Meanwhile, Vistara Airlines claimed that the ATC had asked UK 997 to be at 27,000 feet. A spokesperson for the airline is reported to have said, "The safety of our customers and staff is of paramount importance to us and at Vistara we diligently follow all the safety regulations and guidelines. In this particular incident, the resolution advisory (RA) got triggered due to conflicting traffic. Our pilot followed the SOP (standard operating procedure) to avoid it and carried out an uneventful landing. The matter is under investigation by relevant authorities."

A report in the Times of India quotes a senior official from Air India as having commented on the incident and stated, "This was indeed a very close call. Our crew was acting just as it should have. There must have been some serious confusion between air traffic control and Vistara pilots that led to this."

According to international aviation rules the minimum vertical distance btween aircrafts must be 1,000 feet, ten times the distance that existed between the Air India and Vistara aircrafts. Modern aircraft are, however, fitted with a TCAS system to warn pilots about other flights in their airspace. It was this traffic collision avoidance system that helped the two flight crews to take corrective action just in the nick of time. An investigation on the incident has been launched by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AIBB).

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