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Too close for comfort

delhi Updated: Sep 05, 2008 01:12 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times
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About 200 passengers of a full cost carrier and a private jet had a narrow escape near the Delhi airport on Sunday after the planes came too close to each other.

The incident happened on August 31 at around 2.15 pm when an Airbus A-320 aircraft of a full cost carrier had just taken off from the Delhi airport for Lucknow. Within minutes, it came close to a chartered plane (a C-550 aircraft) that was coming towards Delhi. The pilot informed the air traffic control (ATC) immediately and the ATC asked the planes to fly on different altitudes to avoid any chances of a collision.

The collision avoidance system (ACAS) of the A-320 aircraft alerted the pilot through a Traffic Advisory (TA) that another aircraft is less than 6 nautical miles (nm) away and is climbing. Within seconds, the C-550 aircraft came as close as 2 nm and was about to reach the same track on which the A-320 was flying, said sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

As the aircraft started coming closer, the A-320 pilot got a Resolution Advisory (RA) alert from the ACAS and he contacted the ATC. The planes were sent to different tracks and a possible collision was avoided. The DGCA is investigating the incident.

“We investigate all such RA incidents and necessary action would be taken,” said DGCA chief Kanu Gohain. He, however, added that an RA incident is not as dangerous as a near miss.

“The RA incident was reported to us by the airline and investigations are on,” said a DGCA source. “Preliminary reports suggest that there was a malfunction in the chartered plane and that is why it came on the same track as the A-320,” he said.

“Though the margin of averting a collision is much higher in such an incident, it is still dangerous,” he said.

The incident is first of its kind this year but the Delhi airport had witnessed large number of near-miss incidents in 2007. The runways at the airport are not parallel and if two aircraft take off towards the Dwarka side, their flight paths converge at a distance of 1.5 nautical miles.

Though there were time separations during take-offs, the incidents still occurred. The incidents stopped after the DGCA notified the secondary runway (27/09) for landings and main runway (28/10) for take-offs.