The aviation safety regulator has questioned Mumbai air traffic control (ATC) on its recent decision to reduce the distance between two arriving flights by two nautical miles, in its probe into the near collision between two aircraft at Mumbai on August 22.
The probe into the incident found that the ATC had reduced the minimum distance that two aircraft must maintain while landing from eight nautical miles to six nautical miles in May. ATC officials were told to squeeze in a take-off between two such landings.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has sought an explanation for the revision in this rule. “Slotting two arrivals and a departure in that space increases the room for error. It is presumed the three pilots would do their job within the permissible time. What if they don’t?” asked a senior DGCA official from Delhi HQ.
In the recent case air traffic management almost went out of control because the Jet Airways flight was taxiing slowly. The pilot justified this to the DGCA stating the airfield was wet. Also, an AI flight that landed before the Jet aircraft began its take-off run was an Airbus 319, a smaller aircraft compared to the Boeing 747 (that made a go-around) following it. “There is a possibility the A319 was slow in vacating the runway and the B747 being a bigger aircraft was travelling at a higher speed,” added the DGCA official.
ATC sources said at the separation limit was reduced because of pressure from the city airport operator to accommodate more flights.