IN TWO separate incidents Tuesday that has raised serious questions about safety norms in the aviation sector, two aircraft narrowly avoided a head-on collision in Delhi while another skidded off the runway in Goa, leaving at least 12 passengers injured. The incidents occurred within two hours of each other and probes have been ordered into both “near-misses”, said officials.
At 5 am in Goa, a Mumbai-bound Jet Airways flight skidded off the runway while taxing for take-off, with the aircraft turning full-circle and its nose dipping to touch the soft land that borders the runway. When the evacuation was on, the aircraft tilted forward, triggering panic among passengers, said officials.
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Navy sources said 15 people suffered “minor injuries and fractures” in the process. “When people were getting down the plane, the escape chute suddenly tilted forward triggering panic and chaos,” said a passenger.
The flying licence of the two Jet pilots was suspended and a probe launched by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Civil Aviation Ministry. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said a thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured. Action will be taken in case of violation of procedures, he added.
Just two hours later, a major mishap was averted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi after an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the taxiway. The DGCA has ordered a investigation even as a preliminary probe revealed that confusion may have been caused by the Air Traffic Controller (ATC). A collision was averted after the pilots spotted each other.
Sources said the ATC allowed the SpiceJet aircraft, which had waited for more than an hour to take-off due to dense fog, to return for refuelling at the same time an IndiGo flight from Lucknow had landed. The DGCA has “de-rostered” the ATC personnel involved and issued a warning to authorities.
Sources in DGCA said the SpiceJet aircraft SG-123 had waited on runway since 6.15 am due to low visibility and finally got permission to take off at around 7.15 am. “But the pilot of SpiceJet informed the ATC that before taking off, they wanted to refuel and was given permission. Simultaneously, IndiGO flight No. 6E 769, carrying 176 passengers landed from Lucknow,” a senior official said.
Sources said the ATC did not alert the pilots of the position of the aircrafts. “The preliminary probe also revealed that they were on the taxiway where speed is slow. The Indigo aircraft had landed from Lucknow and turned from the main runway to the taxiway before the terminal. The SpiceJet aircraft was heading towards the main runway at a slow speed for take-off,” a DGCA official said.
According to sources, the SpiceJet aircraft turned on to the wrong taxiway due to the heavy fog while IndiGo aircraft was moving in. The IndiGo suddenly saw the SpiceJet aircraft from a distance of 40 metres and applied the brakes,” sources said.
The IndiGo flight took off for Pune at around 7.45 am, while SpiceJet flight departed for Hyderabad at around 10.11 am.
A spokesperson for SpiceJet said, “SpiceJet flight SG 123 operating Delhi-Hyderabad was following ATC instructions at all times at the Delhi airport. While taxiing, the SpiceJet crew observed another aircraft on the same taxiway in the opposite direction. Acting promptly, the SpiceJet crew immediately stopped the aircraft and intimated the ATC. Safety is of utmost and primary concern at SpiceJet. At no stage the safety of passengers, crew and aircraft was compromised. All concerned authorities were immediately informed.”
A spokesperson for IndiGo said that the aircraft, while taxing in at Delhi airport morning, observed another aircraft in front of it. “Following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the Captain-in-Command took the decision of switching off the engine and reported the incident to ATC. All 176 passengers along with the crew are safe. IndiGo flight was observing ATC instructions all the time at Delhi airport. IndiGo has voluntarily informed the DGCA. This matter is being investigated by IndiGo safety department and the regulator,” he said.