Sunday, June 22, 2014

‘Top safety official in dark about air miss cases’

MUMBAI: In sixteen days during the second and third week of May, five "air miss incidents" took place over Mumbai skies as aircraft came in close proximity of each other, said a source.

However, the topmost Airports Authority of India (AAI) official (western region) tasked with monitoring aviation safety was kept in the dark about the cases.

The air traffic control services in the country are provided by the AAI. An increase in near miss incidents over the congested Mumbai skies is primarily the organization's concern. The authority investigates and finds solutions to remedy such situations, but the job function has not been taking place as mandated.

"AAI officials have been suppressing from me air miss incident reports since last year. They are being aided and abetted by the higher-ups in AAI headquarters," stated a letter sent on April 30 by S Mangala, AAI deputy general manager (aviation safety) of the western region to A K Sharma, regional AAI executive director.

Mangala being the western region's top aviation safety official is one of the administrators who should be mandatory informed about such incidents as soon as they take place. "It is high time that air safety is given more attention, especially in view of the downgrade by aviation regulator in the US last year," the letter mentioned. On May 1, AAI's vigilance officer made a noting on the letter calling for appropriate action. On May 5, Sharma sought an explanation on the matter. There has been no progress since then.

"Mangala has been vociferous in criticizing several controversial decisions taken by the AAI in the past. But by keeping her out of the loop, the AAI officials have hindered the job function of the top aviation safety official in Mumbai at a time when air miss incidents are on the rise," said an aviation source. AAI chairman was not available for comment.

Between 2013 and 2014, 13 air traffic control incidents were registered. On May 6, a serious incident took place when an IndiGo Mumbai-Jaipur flight, which was to take off from Mumbai airport's runway 14, delayed its departure because of which a Jet Airways aircraft that had been descending and cleared to land on the same runway was forced to do a go-around at the last moment.

In a few seconds, the air traffic controllers and the pilots of both aircraft faced tense moments because the IndiGo A320 lifted off only to find the Jet Airways Boeing 737, which had aborted its landing a few seconds ago also tracking a climb along the same direction, a few hundred feet over it.


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