Mumbai near-collision probe continues, Air Force defends pilots

February 11th, 2009 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilNew Delhi/Bangalore, Feb 11 (IANS) Even as Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major Wednesday gave a clean chit to his chopper pilots who narrowly escaped colliding with a passenger aircraft at the Mumbai airport two days earlier, the aviation watchdog declined to be drawn into the blame game, saying the probe was still underway.
“We have derostered two officials who were at the ATC (air traffic control) then. The probe is still underway. We will get to the bottom of the matter by the weekend,” said a senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

A Delhi-bound Air India aircraft with some 170 passengers and 10-member crew on board Monday averted crashing into three choppers of the Indian Air Force, one of which was ferrying President Pratibha Patil, minutes before take-off.

The air force chief, however, came to the rescue of his pilots, and said the officers at the ATC had given the requisite clearance to his pilots to land at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on the eventful day.

“The IAF choppers were not at fault and were given clearance to land on the runway by the ATC,” Major said on the sidelines of the Aero India Show at the Yelahanka base on the outskirts of Bangalore.

“The IAF helicopters were not told to change the frequencies and no pilot can change it without being asked to do so. I think we need to finetune procedures on the DGCA’s part,” the air force chief added.

The regulator, while ordering the probe Monday, had said that officers at the ATC in Mumbai were aware of the presidential visit and watching the approach movement of her entourage.

The joint director general for investigation with the regulatory authority, A.K. Chopra, is heading the eight-member probe.

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