A preliminary report into the near-collision case at Mumbai airport, which put to risk around 220 lives, has found that the Air India pilot was at fault.
On Sunday morning, two planes — a Kolkota-bound Jet Airways flight and a Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai Air India flight — hurtled towards each other on intersecting runways, stopping moments away from disaster.
While Nasim Zaidi, director general of civil aviation, said the investigations had “no outcome as yet”, sources in the regulatory body told Hindustan Times that the Air India pilot started rolling without take-off clearance from air traffic control. Zaidi did not comment on when the probe is expected to be over and what action is likely to be taken against the erring pilot.
Sources said that the Air India pilot, identified as Captain Rustom Palia, was summoned to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) office inside the Air India operations building in Kalina at 9 am on Monday. The Jet Airways pilot was not called.
For 90 minutes, DGCA officials heard excerpts from the cockpit voice recorder and grilled Palia, sources said. “At no point did the controller give him take-off clearance. He misread the instructions and began taxiing on his own,” said a DGCA official, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Subsequently, the report was sent to the DGCA headquarters in Delhi at 3 pm.
Despite several attempts to contact him, Air India spokesperson, Jitendra Bhargava neither responded to phone calls nor replied to a text message sent to him.
The transcripts revealed that at 7.56 am the air traffic controller gave take-off clearance to Jet Airways flight 615. “The only conversation between the controller and Air India pilot was stop… stop… abort take off,” said the source. The Jet
Airways pilot heard this instruction too and braked as a precautionary measure.
The mix-up delayed the Jet Airways flight by 3.5 hours and the Air India flight by 5 hours.