The Plane flying Sonia Gandhi to Srinagar on September 10 came uncomfortably close to a commercial airliner soon after takeoff from Delhi. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating.
The incident has been called an ‘air-miss’, distinct from a ‘near-miss’, which in aviation parlance means the aircraft were on collision course. They did, however, come close enough to breach set norms of lateral and vertical separation.
The IAF Boeing 737 carrying Sonia and other VIPs took off at 11.30 am. About 15 minutes later, when the plane was over Punjab, 180 km from Delhi, it came close to a descending Virgin A340 flight from London.
“There was a breach of separation on vertical and lateral counts,” a source said. “The vertical separation had come down from the minimum 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet, and the lateral from 10 miles to 6 miles.” Sonia’s plane was at 30,000 ft; the passenger jet at 31,000 ft.
“We’re reviewing the tapes. The probe will take a few days more,” AK Chopra, Joint Director General of Civil Aviation, said. “The breach was not dangerous, but we’re taking it very seriously. Such mistakes shouldn’t happen,” he said.