Passengers on board two aircraft of Gulf carriers Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways had a close shave in the Mumbai airspace on Sunday night after their flights breached the mandated safety distance and came tantalisingly close.
The Etihad Airways flight EY-622 was carrying passengers from Abu Dhabi to Seychelles, while the Emirates Airlines flight EK-706 was bound for Dubai when the incident took place. A possible mishap was averted, however.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered an inquiry into the matter on Tuesday. According to DGCA's preliminary report, both the aircraft cockpits recorded an anti-collision alert thrown by an in-built safety device called the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).
The TCAS issues two kinds of warnings: traffic advisory and resolution advisory. The first indicates a plane at a vertical distance of 35 to 40 seconds, while the latter is issued when two mid-air planes are separated by 25 to 30 seconds. It was the latter in this case, said DGCA sources.
"We will inspect the radar readings of the safety breach and take appropriate action," said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
Sources, however, said the regulator can do little to take action against the crew, since both the airlines involved in the incident were foreign carriers. According to protocol, the DGCA would send its report to the Gulf regulator.
An Emirates Airlines spokesperson confirmed the incident.
"Emirates can confirm that flight EK 706 on 29 March from Seychelles to Dubai was involved in an air traffic control incident in Mumbai airspace. At no point was the aircraft, passengers or crew at risk," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that all Emirates aircraft were equipped with on board instrumentation so that crew was alerted in a timely manner of all surrounding traffic.
"The crew informed the authorities of the incident and later filed an air safety report, which will be forwarded to Mumbai Air Traffic Control."
The Etihad spokesperson was not available for a comment.