An alert approach radar controller closely monitoring the airspace above Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport may have saved the lives of hundreds of passengers onboard two IndiGo jetliners that nearly had a mid-air collision shortly after both took off on January 7.
IndiGo flight 6E-455 from Bengaluru to Kolkata and 6E 246, from Bengaluru to Bhubaneshwar, both variants of the Airbus A320, had taken off simultaneously in the same direction from parallel runways when they came dangerously close to one another.
Approach radar controller, 42-year-old Lokendra Singh, “gave a diverging heading (to the aircraft) and avoided a mid-air collision,” says a preliminary report of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, or DGCA, accessed by NDTV.
Both jetliners were believed to be at an altitude of 3,000 feet when the incident took place.
Bengaluru airport has two runways, North and South. Earlier that day, both runways were in use. The North runway was meant for departures and the South runway for arrivals. This is standard practice at this airport to ensure the separation of aircraft departing and landing.
On the morning of January 7, key mistakes were made.
A shift in-charge decided to use a single runway for operations – the North runway for both arrival and departure.
“The South runway was closed but this was not communicated to the South tower controller,” the DGCA said in its preliminary report. In the meanwhile, the air traffic controller handling operations of the South runway “gave departure to 6E 455 and at the same time North tower controller gave departure to 6E 246 without coordination.”
Evasive manoeuvres were carried out when both Airbus jets “were on a converging heading, i.e moving towards each other.”
The DGCA preliminary investigation has noted that the mid-air scare was not recorded in the logbooks of the air traffic controllers and had not been reported by the Airports Authority of India, or AAI. These are a part of the lapses being looked at.
The Bengaluru-Kolkata flight carried 176 passengers and six crew, while the Bengaluru-Bhubaneswar flight carried 238 passengers and six crew – a total of 426 passengers.