MORE THAN a month after a SpiceJet flight was involved in a runway incursion incident at Ahmedabad airport, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has suspended the licence of the pilot in command, Captain Vikram Singh Chauhan, for six months. The incident occurred at Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport on July 9 when SpiceJet flight SG 2988, while taxiing toward the runway for take-off to Jaipur crossed its holding point.
Elaborating on the incident, the DGCA stated, “In spite of the first officer (co-pilot) reading back the instructions of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) correctly, the flight breached the holding point and reached the middle of an active runway where a Go Air flight GOW 913 to Goa had already started departure roll (began initial stages of take-off).” A holding point is that spot in an aircraft’s path between taxi and take-off where the pilot has to either stop or hold position due to ongoing activity on the airfield.
Immediately, Ahmedabad ATC instructed the Go Air flight on the other end of the runway to immediately abort take-off and halt, averting a possible collision. More than 250 passengers were on board the two flights at that time.
Following the incident, the DGCA issued a show-cause notice to the low-cost carrier on August 22, seeking an explanation for the incident. The DGCA said, “In his response, the pilot accepted his mistake and explained that it happened due to an error of judgment based on presumption and inadequate monitoring of ATC instructions.”
Commenting on the incident, an aviation expert said on condition on anonymity, “Such incidents are rare but dangerous nonetheless. It was a communication gap between the captain, the first officer and the ATC. I, however, feel that if the first officer had read back the ATC’s instructions to hold position, he should have been stronger in communicating it and instructed the captain in command to stop proceeding on to the runway. These seem to be minor errors of judgment but could lead to dire consequences.”
The expert believes the DGCA made the correct decision as far as quantum of punishment is concerned. Due to a similar communication gap, the most fatal aviation disaster in history had taken place on March 27, 1977, when a KLM and Pan Am Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the runway of Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife, Spain, leading to the death of 583 people.
Earlier this month, the DGCA suspended the licences of two pilots who were operating a flight from Coimbatore to Mumbai on July 2 that overshot the runway during heavy rain.