An incident of a mid-air collision involving two IndiGo domestic passenger planes was averted recently at Kempegowda International airport, Bengaluru. The incident that happened at 8.45 am on January 7 was not reported as per the norms, and hence, was not recorded in the aviation logbooks or with India’s aviation regulatory authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The cause of the incident is said to be improper communication among air traffic controllers in the ATC room. IndiGo Flight No. 6E 455 from Bengaluru to Kolkata and Flight No. 6E 246 from Bengaluru to Bhubaneswar are the flights involved in the incident. The flights were cleared for take-off simultaneously in the same direction. Luckily, the radar controller that spotted the error alerted the pilots on both flights. While one plane took sharply to the right, another turned to the left, avoiding a fatal crash.
There is no sufficient space between two airstrips at Bengaluru KIA airport to allow parallel and simultaneous take-off and landing of flights. A specific time difference must be maintained between flight movements to avoid possible collisions.
A head-on collision could have occurred
Bengaluru airport’s north runway was designated for take-off and south for landings on the day of the incident. Later, the shift in-charge decided to proceed with single runway operations using the north runway for both take-off and arrival. The decision was taken as the south runway had to be closed for unspecified reasons. However, the decision to change was not conveyed to the south tower controller, who gave clearance to 6E 455 from Bengaluru to Kolkata flight to take-off. North tower controller too gave the nod for take-off simultaneously for 6E 246 from Bengaluru to Bhuvaneswar flight at the same time without coordination. After the departure, both flights moved towards each other before the radar controller alerted the pilots.
Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) which manages Kempegowda International airport, did not respond to the incident. IndiGo airlines, too, avoided commenting on the issue. DGCA was later alerted, and the authority has launched an investigation into the safety lapses at Bengaluru airport.
According to an aviation expert, a breach of separation incident could have serious consequences, including a head-on collision.