In Mumbai Airport Scare, IndiGo And Air India Planes Were Just 509 m Apart

IndiGo and Air India, in their respective statements, said that their pilots followed ATC instructions.

New Delhi:

At Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, two aircraft came alarmingly close to each other on the runway yesterday, with only 509 metres separating them. An IndiGo flight from Indore landed on the same runway just moments after an Air India jet took off for Thiruvananthapuram.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation and de-rostered the air traffic controller involved in the incident. According to DGCA guidelines, air traffic control can issue landing clearance only when there is a reasonable assurance that the landing aircraft won’t cross the threshold until the preceding departing aircraft has crossed the end of the runway. This rule appears to have been violated.

“In this particular case that happened on Saturday at the Mumbai airport, the visibility was good and there was no air proximity situation in respect to the landing of the IndiGo flight and the taking off of the Air India flight,” the guild representing air traffic controllers said in a statement.

Data from Flightradar contradicts the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild’s assertion that there was no air proximity issue. The video circulating on social media shows the Air India jet taking off while the IndiGo plane lands on the same runway, raising serious safety concerns.

IndiGo and Air India, in their respective statements, said that their pilots followed ATC instructions. 

“On June 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, following ATC instructions. At IndiGo, passenger safety is paramount, and we have reported the incident as per procedure,” said IndiGo in a statement.

Similarly, Air India noted, “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 movement in accordance with laid down procedures.”

Despite these reassurances, the incident has brought to light the intense pressure faced by air traffic controllers at high-density airports like Mumbai. The airport, a single-runway operation with crossing runways 09/27 and 14/32, handles over 850 flights per day, with around 46 arrivals and departures per hour on runway 27 alone.

The DGCA’s ongoing probe aims to determine whether all norms were followed by the ATC and the pilots involved. The Guild also highlighted the high stress and pressure faced by ATCs during peak traffic hours.

Mumbai airport had earlier announced plans to handle 8 per cent more air traffic during the summer schedule, increasing operations to 951 flights per day.