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Close call at Mumbai airport: Aircraft cleared by ATC for take-off, says Air India

New Delhi: Air India on Sunday issued a statement regarding the June 8 incident where two aircraft came dangerously close on the same runway at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, and said that the Mumbai-Trivandrum flight was cleared by the Air Traffic Control (ATC) to enter the runway.
"AI657 from Mumbai to Trivandrum was on take-off roll on June 8. The Air India aircraft was cleared by Air Traffic Control to enter the runway and subsequently cleared for take-off. The Air India aircraft continued with the take-off roll in accordance with laid down procedures," the airline said in its statement.
"An investigation has been initiated by the authorities to find out more on the clearance given to the airlines," it added.
This came after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) took action by de-rostering an Air Traffic Control officer (ATCO) from Mumbai following a potentially disastrous incident involving two aircraft on the same runway. The incident occurred early on the morning of June 8 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM).
In the early hours of Saturday, IndiGo flight 5053, arriving from Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport (IDR), was landing on Runway 27 while Air India flight 657 was still in the process of taking off for Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (TRV). Both flights involved Airbus A320neo aircraft. The close timing of the landing and take-off created a hazardous situation that could have resulted in a major accident.
The DGCA's immediate response to de-roster the ATC officer involved, reflects the seriousness of the incident and the emphasis on maintaining strict safety standards in aviation operations.
An investigation is underway to understand the circumstances that led to this breach in protocol and to implement measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
"Mumbai and Delhi airports are high-intensity airports, operating around 46 flights per hour. ATCOs are responsible for maintaining the safe and secure arrival and departure of planes and passengers. In the viral video, the visibility appears to be quite good. If there is reasonable assurance through visual observation, the traffic separation minima can be reduced. In this incident, it appears that the departing aircraft had already reached B2 speed and was nose up while the arriving aircraft was touching down on Runway 27. The matter is under investigation," said Alok Yadav, General Secretary of the ATC Guild India.
After reviewing the footage recorded and shared widely on social media, it appears that the Air India flight was still accelerating down the runway as the IndiGo flight descended towards the ground. As the A320neo got closer, the Air India flight managed to get airborne, likely unaware of the other aircraft approaching from behind. It was able to take off without incident.
However, IndiGo issued a statement after the incident, "On Jun 8, 2024, IndiGo flight 6E 6053 from Indore was given landing clearance by ATC at Mumbai Airport.
The Pilot in Command continued the approach and landing and followed ATC instructions. At IndiGo, passenger safety is paramount to us, and we have reported the incident as per procedure."

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