Monday, October 01, 2018

ATC death revives 2015 tremor horror

Kolkata: The bravery of an Indonesian air traffic controller (ATCO), who sacrificed his life to ensure that a plane carrying hundreds of passengers safely made it off the ground after Friday’s tremor, rekindled memories of the Nepal earthquake that severely jolted the air traffic control (ATC) tower at Kolkata.

On April 24, 2015, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 pulverised Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people. Kolkata was badly jolted. At Kolkata airport’s Air Traffic Services Complex (ATSC), the eight-storey building had swayed dangerously. But ATCOs on the channel stuck to their job, shepherding planes that where either headed for Kolkata or flying over the city.

While no one in Kolkata was injured that day, 21-year-old Indonesian ATCO Anthonius Gunawan Agung who had ensured that a plane, which was on the runway at the time of the earthquake, took off safely, died of injuries. Agung was the only one left in the control tower of Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport at Palu after the magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the city. After he guided Batik Air Flight 6321 to a safe departure, he jumped off the fourth floor fearing its imminent collapse.
Asit Sinha, air traffic management joint general manager who was on duty at the time of the 2015 earthquake, rushed to the tower where young ATCOs were deputed to check if they were alright. “ATCOs are groomed to make safety of flights their priority. That morning, a plane was about to land when the tower started shaking. When people were scrambling out of buildings, a young ATCO instructed a pilot of an incoming flight not to touch down, but go around. He realized that the runway needed to be inspected before the plane landed,” he recounted.
01/10/18 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

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