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Air traffic makes Indian sky unsafe

In 2005, 21 air-miss or near-accident cases were reported, which is an increase of 33% over the previous year.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 11:51 IST

With the aviation industry soaring, lack of sufficient infrastructure to cope with increased air traffic has led to a sharp rise in the number of near-accidents in the country.

During 2005, 21 air-miss or near-accident cases involving commercial aircraft were reported, an increase of almost 33 per cent over the previous year.

What is more alarming is that of the 21, two incidents where a "near-collision was avoided", could have been disastrous, involving about 500 passengers, sources said.

In fact, in the wake of the rise in the number of aircraft, the ministry "has started imposing a ban on general aviation aircraft during the peak periods at Delhi and Mumbai airports," one source said.

According to a senior official in the civil aviation ministry, air-miss incidents are categorised as risk of collision, non-adherence to safety norms and a risky instance.

While in a majority of such cases the two flights in question crossed each other under risky conditions, "two of the cases involving nearly 500 passengers had a close shave with disaster", said the source.

While inquiries failed to ascertain the reasons that gave rise to such high-risk situations in four cases, it was clear that nearly 50 per cent was caused by erroneous judgement on the part of the Air Traffic Control (ATC).

"Surprisingly 10 out of a total of 21 air-miss happened due to some slip on part of the ATC," said an official of a private airline.

The situation attains significance in the wake of a substantial number of vacancies in the ATC.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has a sanctioned strength of 1,753 people in all categories of the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC Discipline). However, the actual people in position are 1,313.

A ministry official said despite constraints in filling up the vacancies there was no compromise on aviation safety. The ATC services in the country were provided as per International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) norms and guidelines, he said.

"The AAI has recently selected 88 candidates for the post of Junior Executive (ATC) and has deputed them for training to the Civil Aviation Training Centre, Allahabad," said the official.

Apart from this, the government has expedited the process of upgradation of ATC automation system at Delhi and Mumbai airports.

The increase in total aircraft movement in the year 2004-05 was 11.9 per cent over the total traffic handled in 2003-04. In the April-December 2005-06 period, aircraft movement grew by 13.3 per cent over the same periodduring 2004-05.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 11:29 IST