Air India, Jet flights miss colliding, probe ordered (Lead)

May 31st, 2009 - 7:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Mumbai/New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) A major disaster was averted at the Mumbai airport Sunday when two passenger aircraft proceeded for take off simultaneously from two runways, but their pilots stopped the planes in the nick of time, airport officials said. A probe has been ordered into the near miss.
The incident occurred at 7.27 a.m. when Air India’s Delhi-bound aircraft with 119 passengers and Jet Airways’ flight to Kolkata with 120 passengers were proceeding for take off. The Air India aircraft was on the main runway, while the Jet plane was at the cross runway.

An official spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry in New Delhi said while a probe has been ordered into the incident by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the watchdog for the sector, the ATC was fully aware of the location of both planes.

“There was no question of a near miss or something. At every point, both aircraft were under ATC’s observation,” the spokesperson said.

“The ATC had given permission to the Jet flight to take off. But when the officers saw the Air India flight also rolling, they asked the Jet pilot to abort. The two flights were also far away from each other.”

She said the inquiry will also seek to ascertain why the Air India pilot proceeded for take off when as such no clearance had yet been given.

This was the second major instance of near-collision at the busy Mumbai airport this year. On Feb 9, a near-collision was averted between a helicopter that was part of President Pratibha Patil’s entourage and an Air India flight.

Mumbai airport, which caters to around 25 million passengers with plans for 40 million after the ongoing upgrade, has two runways criss-crossing each other. While the main runway is used round-the-clock, the cross-runway is used for six hours daily, officials said.

There is always a few minutes gap between every take off. The runways are alternatively used for take-off and landing. Sunday’s incident has occurred when the ATC has been actively considering the proposal to use the cross-runway round-the-clock to ease air congestion.

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