Tragedy was narrowly averted at Delhi airport this afternoon after a Vistara flight from Ahmedabad and another plane of the same airline – the two carrying around 300 people in total – thanks to an alert pilot on the former plane.
The Ahmedabad-Delhi flight had just landed and had been instructed by Air Traffic Control to cross an active runway to reach the parking bay. Meanwhile, a Vistara Airlines Delhi-Bagdogra flight had been given permission to take off on that same runway and a collision was only avoided thanks to 45-year-old Captain Sonu Gill on the Ahmedabad-Delhi flight.
The planes were 1.8 km, or 1,800 metres, apart, sources said, stressing that if the pilot had not warned ATC of the presence of the other plane, the outcome could have been disastrous.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Vistara flight VTI926 had landed on Runway 29L and told by ATC to cross Runway 29R en route to its parking bay.
However, the ATC official ‘momentarily forgot’ instructions given to VTI926 and told flight VTI725 to take-off from Runway 29R. The regulator’s statement said the ATC ‘on realisation of the error, based on input from VTI926, tower controller instructed VTI725 to cancel take-off’.
The aviation regulator said an ‘alert pilot in the aircraft crossing the runway (VTI926) alerted Air Traffic Control and the aircraft on its take-off run (VTI725) was ordered to abort take-off’.
According to news agency PTI the DGCA has derostered the ATC official responsible for the runway incursion event.
The Delhi-Bagdogra flight retreated from the active runway immediately after being ordered to abort its take-off and returned to its parking bay. Officials told PTI the plane was refuelled to ensure it had enough fuel for the second take-off attempt and to return to Delhi if the pilot encountered bad weather conditions at or en route to Bagdogra.
Sources said passengers became a little apprehensive when the pilot of the flight bound for Bagdogra announced that the plane will not take off due to instructions from ATC.
Protocol at the Delhi airport is that no aircraft or vehicle movement is allowed when a plane is in the process of take-off or landing. Captain Amit Singh, a senior pilot and the founder of the Safety Matters Foundation, told PTI flight ops ‘from closely spaced runways require enhanced monitoring and stricter compliance with SOPs to avoid a potential traffic collision’.
The Delhi-Bagdogra flight was taking off from the newly inaugurated runway and the second Vistara flight, after landing on a parallel runway, was moving to the end of the same runway.
With input from agencies