A day after an Air India plane narrowly missed a collision with an IAF helicopter from President Pratibha Patils fleet at the Mumbai airport,a fault apparently on part of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) almost led to a mid-air collision between an Air India plane and an IAF plane over Jorhat in Assam.
The Kolkata-bound flight IC 206,with 43 passengers on board,took off from Dibrugarh at around 11.50 am and was given clearance by the ATC at Dibrugarh to fly at an altitude of 18,000 feet. Almost simultaneously,IAFs Jorhat-bound IL-76 also took off from Dibrugarh and was given ATC clearance to fly at 19,000 feet.
According to available information,as both the planes entered the Jorhat airspace,the Jorhat ATC asked the IAF plane to descend by 2,000 feet without taking into account that the Air India plane was already flying at 18,000 feet. As the IAF plane started to make its descent to 17,000 feet,it apparently got in close proximity to the Air India plane very nearly causing a mid-air collision.
Detecting the presence of another aircraft through the Anti Collission Warning System on his plane,Air India pilot Captain Joydeep Bandopadhyay immediately made his plane descend by around 1,000 feet and thus averted a collision. Many passengers on the Air India plane spotted the IL-76 in close proximity from their windows.
Described as a breach of permissible vertical and horizontal parameters in civil aviation parlance,the incident is being attributed to a fault committed by the ATC at Jorhat. Jorhat,which is a defence airbase,is a major hub for IAFs transport planes and its ATC is also manned by IAF personnel.
Even as the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) confirmed receiving information about an incident involving breach of separation (of mandatory 1,000 feet) between IC 206 and the IAF plane,the IAF spokesperson in New Delhi said no such incident had been brought to its notice.
In 1978,the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had a miraculous escape when an IAF aircraft crashlanded near Jorhat in which all the five crew members were killed.