Two aircraft took off simultaneously towards the same direction at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday. This happened two days after two aircraft came on a collision course over the airport and a day after the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a directive to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to earmark one runway for landing and the other for take off.
Obviously, the directive is yet to be followed.
The incident occurred at 5.30 pm when a IndiGo flight to Goa and a Qatar Airways flight to Doha took off from the two runways of the airport within 30 seconds of each other. Both took off down a path at the end of which the two runways converge. A collision was averted after the air traffic control alerted the aircraft and the IndiGo plane turned left, leaving the Qatar aircraft free to fly straight.
On Monday, a MDLR airlines aircraft and a JetLite plane came on a collision course over Dwarka.
“A mishap was averted by sheer luck. Though there was a vertical separation of 900 feet between the aircraft, there was a chance of collision if they had taken off at the exact same time instead of a difference of 30 seconds,” said a senior Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO).
Such simultaneous take-offs and near misses are not new at the IGI airport. The problem is that the two runways, which do not run parallel and cross each other’s path at a distance of 1.5 km over Dwarka, are controlled by different ATCOs.
ATCOs, however, said dilly-dallying by authorities would result in a mishap soon. “They will not change the procedures till a collision takes place. The fault lies with the system, not ATC that is already overstretched,” a senior ATCO said.
“The Airports Authority of India has to design the new procedures and the ATCOs have to be given a briefing. AAI has to take the action,” said Director General Kanu Gohain.
“We are investigating Wednesday’s incident to take remedial design procedures to avoid such incidents. The aircraft, however, had a minimum vertical separation of 1,000 feet.
They would not have collided, as the IndiGo plane turned left towards Goa and the Qatar plane flew straight,” he said.
Recent incidents of near misses at IGI Airport
December 17: A mid air collision was averted at IGI Airport after a JetLite and a MDLR airlines plane took-off from the twin runways at difference of 30 seconds. The MDLR aircraft was asked to turn left immediately to avoid a collision.
November 23: A near collision was averted when a pilot of a SpiceJet flight to Goa saw another plane taking off from the parallel runway and applied brakes just in time.
June 23: Two Boeing 747 aircraft belonging to international airlines were about to collide 50 km south of Delhi but levels were changed at last moment to avert disaster.
June 5: Two non-scheduled planes, one turboprop and a challenger aircraft, take-off from the two runways and come too close but collision was averted as air traffic control immediately turned them to different direction.
April 22: Two planes of a full-cost domestic carrier take-off from the two runways of IGI Airport towards Dwarka side at a difference of 15 seconds and come close to colliding.