Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Plane loses air traffic control link over Indira Gandhi International Airport, lands safely

NEW DELHI: Imagine an aircraft that's just moments away from landing suddenly loses all contact with the air traffic control (ATC) at the destination airport. The radio fails and then both do not now know what the other is doing for many minutes before touchdown! This is precisely what happened at Delhi airport on Tuesday afternoon when a SpiceJet flight from Hyderabad was approaching towards capital to land.

The Boeing 737 established the first contact with the ATC at IGI airport after entering Delhi region and then the communication between the tower and the cockpit suddenly went dead. Sources say that for the next five to ten minutes there was no contact between the two. However, luckily for passengers, contact was re-established when the aircraft was about 80 miles from IGI and then it landed safely.

"The frequency on which the pilot had contacted the ATC suddenly got jammed. This usually happens when the button on the push to talk of the radio telephone in the cockpit remains pressed for longer than needed and it jams the frequency. For 5-10 minutes there was no contact with the aircraft. Contact resumed when the aircraft was 80 miles away from IGI. During the time the aircraft was not in contact with the tower, it did not descend and kept flying, as per procedure, on its last allotted level," said sources.

A SpiceJet spokesperson said: "The observer hand mike had a fault on SpiceJet's SG 234 that was coming from Hyderabad. During this time, the pilot, co-pilot or the observer seat did not have radio contact with the ATC. However, this was rectified in two to three minutes and the connection restored."

The ATC, however, is not taking this incident lightly and has assured that they will investigate what happened on SG 234. "We will speak to the airline and look at our systems too. The incident will be probed," said a senior official.