Two planes come dangerously close at Mumbai airport

Wednesday 12th June 2024 08:31 EDT

In a close call at Mumbai airport, an IndiGo aircraft descended on the runway, touching down even as an Air India flight was taking off, breaching the safety margin. The AI plane lifted off a split second before IndiGo touched down about 2,100 feet behind, said sources.
At the Mumbai airport, which operates with one runway, the norm is that the aircraft taking off should lift off and cross the end of the strip before the aircraft landing can cross the beginning and proceed to touch down.
The incident, captured by plane spotters, showed the aircraft, one behind the other, on the runway. The footage went viral, prompting DGCA to initiate an investigation. From the angle the foot age was recorded, the aircraft appeared dangerously close.
The investigation will primarily look into the sequence of events that led to the breach of separation, the safety margin, between the two A320Neo aircraft, one operated by AI as AI-657 from Mumbai to Thiruvananthapuram and the other, an IndiGo flight 6E5053 from Indore to Mumbai.
The runway meet-up of both these flights occurred around 6.20 am. The air traffic controller concerned has been derostered from duty to allow for the investigation.
“The AI aircraft was cleared by the air traffic control (ATC) to enter the runway and subsequently cleared for takeoff. The AI aircraft continued with take-off movement in accordance with laid down procedures,” said AI in a statement.
The IndiGo flight from Indore was given landing clearance by ATC, a spokesman for the airline said. “The pilot in command continued the approach and landing and followed ATC instructions,” IndiGo said.
Though both airlines said their commanders merely followed instructions given by the tower controller, pilots and controllers highlighted the role played by pilots and the system that forces them to operate in a constrained space in heavy traffic.
“The domino was triggered by the AI aircraft,” said air safety expert capt Amit Singh, based on data gathered from Flightradar24. Given the heavy air traffic on the lone operational runway of Mumbai airport, aircraft land or take off in a tight, choreographic sequence. The series of events that led to the incident occurred in the 90 seconds after an Iraqi Airways flight took off and the AI aircraft entered the runway for take-off. “The AI aircraft was slow to take-off after it received the line-up clearance, assuming they received immediate take-off clearance,” he said. They should have informed the ATC, who would have cancelled their take-off clearance.

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