Friday, August 03, 2018

Air Traffic Controller averts ground collision at Mumbai airport; planes 10 seconds away from disaster

By Jacob K Philip

Mumbai International airport would have witnessed a catastrophic disaster on July 15, but for the exceptional professionalism and sheer presence of mind displayed by a young Air Traffic Controller.
A certain ground collision between a departing Indigo aircraft and an arriving SpiceJet plane was averted in the nick of time by an urgent command given by the controller to the SpiceJet flight to  go-around, said sources closely  associated with aviation organizations.
The short chain of events that would have culminated in a horrific tragedy was started with the departing Indigo flight being instructed to halt and wait at the link taxiway threshold, before entering the runway.
After giving the Indigo flight the  instruction to await clearance to enter the runway, the controller was busy with other traffics, including a SpiceJet flight which was in the final approach,  seconds away from landing.

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While dealing with other flights, the controller happened to take a quick glance at the surface movement radar of the ASMGS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System). And to his horrors, the controller saw an unmistakable blip on the runway.  Instantaneously realizing it was the Indigo aircraft he had given instruction to wait on the link taxiway, the stunned controller snatched the microphone and shouted, literally, not once but three times to the commander of the SpiceJet flight to abort landing and to go around. The SpiceJet did exactly that, though the flight was just 600 ft above the runway at that time.  Witnesses said the go-around initially looked almost like a runway-overshooting sans touching the ground.
Later, a replay of the radar shown that the two aircraft were just 10 seconds apart when the command to go-around was given.
Though the AAI and the airlines had taken all care to keep the incident from media, the shock waves the alarming occurrence sent across the aviation sector was such that the DGCA congratulated the controller personally. The top management of both the airlines too expressed their thanks to the young controller.
Sources also confirmed that both the pilots of the Indigo flight are grounded, pending investigation.