Traffic controllers taken off duty over Mumbai near-disaster

February 10th, 2009 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilMumbai/New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) Two air traffic controllers have been taken off duty following the incident Monday where an Air India aircraft escaped crashing into President Pratibha Patil’s entourage of helicopters at the airport here.

The move comes after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s aviation regulator, Tuesday began a probe into the incident at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

When contacted, the DGCA’s joint director general (investigation) A.K. Chopra, who is heading the eight-member probe, did not share any details.

However, another member of his team confirmed that two officials of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) department have been taken off from duty, and that its initial probe points towards negligence.

“As per standard procedure followed by the DGCA, the two ATC officers are derostered during its investigation,” the civil aviation ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The ATC is responsible for monitoring air traffic in and around the airspace of the airport, and according to DGCA, was “aware” of the VVIP movement.

The president was inside one of three choppers that were part of her entourage, and it was in a fraction of seconds that the mishap was averted at 9:17 a.m. The chopper from the president’s fleet landed on the same runway on which a Delhi-bound Air India flight with 170 passengers was about to take off.

“ATC Mumbai was aware of the presidential visit and watching the approach movement of the presidential convoy of helicopters,” the directorate had said in a statement Monday.

The DGCA probe is expected to be complete by the weekend.

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