New Delhi: A major tragedy was averted in Mumbai skies on Wednesday (February 07) after an Air India flight averted a mid-air collision with a Vistara plane flying in opposite direction. The two planes with 261 passengers aboard sped towards each other, came as close as 100 feet and a collision was dodged by just a few seconds. According to The Times of India, air traffic controllers handling both the flights have been suspended. Notably, both the cockpits were manned by women at the time of the incident.
As per the daily, Air India’s Airbus A-319 (flight number AI 631) was on way to Bhopal from Mumbai and Vistara’s A-320 Neo (flight number UK 997) was flying from Delhi to Pune. “The planes were barely seconds away from each other. Vistara was descending from its assigned level of 29,000 feet to 27,100 feet where an AI flight was coming in the opposite direction. There may have been confusion between the ATC and Vistara cockpit — which at that time had a woman co-pilot at the controls and the captain had taken a toilet break. The AI flight had a woman commander, Captain Anupama Kohli. Maybe there was a mix-up in communication in those tense seconds like what altitude instruction is being given to which lady. This has to be seen,” the daily quoted sources as saying.
Thanks to Captain Anupama Kohli, whose presence of mind saved the lives of the fliers. She has an experience of more than 20 years. “She saw the Vistara aircraft approaching in her direction and could hear the ATC asking UK 997 ‘why are you on this level?’ The Vistara lady pilot told ATC that ‘no, you told me to come to this level’. She was monitoring this. Then she saw the Vistara plane closing in from her left side right towards her. The red sign went up in her cockpit and she got to know the Vistara plane was crossing her level ‘now’. Instantly, a resolution advisory (RA) came — ‘climb, climb, climb.” Then as per RA, Captain Kohli immediately climbed and turned right to steer clear of the Vistara plane,” sources further told the daily.
At the time of the incident, the Vistara plane was also being flown by the lady co-pilot as the male commander had taken a toilet break.
Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has grounded two Vistara pilots over the incident. However, Vistara maintained that its pilots were told to drop the altitude to 27,000 and they “did not do so inadvertently.”
This is reportedly the second time an ‘airprox’ situation took place in Maharashtra skies in the last 15 days. On January 28, IndiGo and Emirates aircraft breached the minimum distance limit over Nagpur when the IndiGo A-320 was on its way to Raipur from Hyderabad and the Emirates Boeing 777 was flying from Singapore to Dubai.