Sahar airport narrowly dodges disaster, again

Aug 24, 2012, 07:57 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh

Two planes narrowly missed collision owing to an alleged error by the Air Traffic Control, the fifth such case in a year

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating an alleged goof-up by the Mumbai ATC wherein two planes were involved in a near miss incident at the international airport in Mumbai, which put the lives of 200-odd passengers at risk on Wednesday night. This is the fifth such instance in the span of a year at Mumbai airport.

Jet Airways flight
Blunder: The ATC gave clearance for take-off to a Jet Airways flight but later asked the pilot to abort it, as an incoming Air India flight had begun descent on the same runway. Representation pic

The latest blunder occurred after the Mumbai ATC gave clearance for take-off to a scheduled Mumbai-Singapore Jet Airways flight but later asked the pilot to abort it, as an incoming Air India flight had begun descent on the same runway. Catastrophe was averted when the approaching Air India pilot was asked to go-around.

The incident occurred when a Jet Airways flight had started to take off with a delay of few seconds, and in the meantime the Air India flight was coming precariously close. The controller asked the Jet pilot to abort take off, but the Jet pilot did not hear the instructions, and the approaching plane was asked to go around in the last few seconds.

“On August 22, at 11.41 pm the Mumbai-Singapore Jet Airways flight 9W 012 was given clearance for take-off. At 11.42 pm the Riyadh-Mumbai Air India flight AI 920 was told to continue approach up to one mile before landing. At the same time Jet flight 9W 012 started rolling and was ready to take-off when AI 920 decided to go around.

ATC instructed 9W012 to reject take-off, but it had already taken off. At 11.43 pm, the Jet captain requested to speak to tower staff and asked if he was given any instructions while taking off. The tower staff mentioned that he had asked him to reject take-off, to which the 9W012 Captain told him that they were at a very high speed and did not monitor what the tower had said. At 11.54 pm AI 920 landed on RWY 27,” said a Mumbai airport spokesperson, on condition of anonymity.

When contacted, the Jet Airways spokesperson said, “The commander of 9W 12 was on a take-off roll when he was informed by ATC to reject take-off as an incoming aircraft had carried out a go-around. The commander of Jet Airways with 142 passengers on board could not reject take-off since he had gone past the decision speed, and it did not result in an unsafe situation. The procedure established by Airports Authority for an aircraft that carries out a go-around versus an aircraft that is taking off provides adequate separation, so that there is no threat to safety.”

When contacted, ATC Joint General Manager A K Meena refrained from comment, saying that he did not have the necessary details, while ATC GM J Dasgupta could not be contacted. The matter has been reported to DGCA, which is further investigating the incident.

4 incidents in 8 months
>> On February 8, an Indigo Airlines flight was told to continue approach for landing when a Jet Airways flight took off. The Indigo aircraft went around when it was less than two miles from the runway.
>> On March 22, a Jet Lite flight had to pull up when a Jet Airways flight could not take off on time. This incident too was allegedly caused by the controller’s ill-timed decision to reissue take-off clearance.
>> On August 9, the ATC cleared an Etihad flight for landing and while another plane was on the same runway.
>> On May 6, ATC controller issued clearance for an Air India flight to enter the runway for take-off. At the same time, the pilot saw a Spice Jet flight also entering the same runway from another taxiway. The ATC had relayed the same instructions to both pilots. 

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