Sunday, January 02, 2022

SpiceJet Rajkot-Delhi flight takes off without ATC nod; DGCA probe on and crew derostered

New Delhi: The last year ended on a dramatic note for Indian aviation with a passenger aircraft taking off without air traffic control (ATC) clearance. This incident happened when a SpiceJet flight took off from Rajkot for Delhi without the mandatory nod on the penultimate day of 2021 — December 30. The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) is probing this serious lapse.

"A SpiceJet Q400 (VT-SUQ) operating Rajkot-Delhi as SJ-3703 on December 30, 2021, took off from Rajkot without ATC clearance. The pilots have been off-rostered (taken off flying duty) pending investigation," said people in the know. A senior DGCA official said “strict action” will be taken against those found responsible for the lapse based on the outcome of the probe.

A senior pilot said, "A serious thing has happened, a plane taking off without ATC clearance. The probe will ascertain how this happened and who is at fault. Was it a communication gap, error or something else needs to be found as such a thing cannot be allowed to be repeated."

ATC gives clearance for an aircraft to land or take off after ascertaining, among other things, that the runway is clear with no vehicle, other plane or person being there. "Pilots initiate push back of an aircraft after getting ATC nod. Then engine start-up is also done with their permission. The ATC then gives permission to line up (be absolutely ready to take off) and subsequently to take off. Confusion sometimes happens between clearance for line up and take off," said another senior commander.

A number of runway incursions have happened due to the confusion between which of the two nods — line up or take off — have been given to the crew of an aircraft. For instance, about two years back the DGCA had suspended the flying licence of a captain of an Indian carrier whose domestic flight was preparing to depart from Mumbai when it mistakenly entered the active runway without clearance.

02/01/22 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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