Two international flights carrying around 500 passengers together narrowly missed crashing into each other about 100 nautical miles west of Mumbai on Thursday night.
The incident took place when a Saudi Airline flight stuck in turbulent weather suddenly climbed 200m from its original flight path. In the course of the safety move it advanced towards to a Gulf Air flight flying in from Jeddah to Mumbai on a higher altitude.
Luckily, the Traffic Collision Avoidance System, an in-built anti-collision device in the Gulf Air aircraft, spotted the other plane and alerted the air traffic control (ATC) in Mumbai.
“A rise in the gravitational pull due to bad weather prompted the Saudi Airline pilot to raise altitude,” said MG Jhungare, general manager, ATC.
Both the speeding aircraft were 200m from each other when the ATC officials asked the Saudi Airline pilot to change its altitude.
As per the procedure, two flights have to maintain a minimum vertical distance of 300m. The second safety violation by Saudi Airline pilots was that they did not seek permission from the ATC before scaling altitude. Airport sources said the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has registered the case as a major safety violation.
It is, however, not clear if the regulator will take any action against the foreign pilots. DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi remained unavailable for comment. Ironically, pilots working with domestic carriers would have been taken off flying duty pending an inquiry in such a situation.
Sources claim that provisions for stringent actions against pilots working with foreign airlines are missing. “At the most the regulator might just send a remark about the pilot to the concerned country,” said a civil aviation official.