Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Mid-air near misses rise to a new, dangerous high

- Jeevan Prakash Sharma letters@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: On the night of May 7, passengers had a miraculous escape when an Indigo and an AirAsia flight were seconds away from a collision 33,800 feet above Maharashtr­a’s Sindhudurg district but luckily averted a mid-air catastroph­e.

The air-traffic controller (ATC) asked the Delhi-Bengaluru Indigo aircraft to descend but the signal was wrongly picked by the AirAsia flight, which started to lower its altitude.

At 10.25pm, the two aircraft were just 25-40 seconds from crashing into each other. The accident was averted when the Indigo A320 — twice the size of a whale — dived 800 feet in less than 30 seconds.

The hair-raising account is only one of scores of such nearmisses, whose numbers have spiked over the last four years, data from Right to Informatio­n queries filed by HT show.

An HT investigat­ion based on RTI data between 2011 and 2016 has found a 78% rise in the incidents of such potential mid-air collisions between January and May this year, when compared to the same period last year.

The data also suggests that 2016

2016 might see the highest number of such near-misses — known as airprox (air proximity) — if trends from the first five months hold.

Between 2011 and May this year, 129 such potential collisions have been reported. More than half of these are because

The tragedy prompted the emergence of the Traffic Collision Avoidance System, an ATC-independen­t technology that is responsibl­e for averting such catastroph­es

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of ATC error and nearly a fifth because of mistakes committed by the flight crew.

“We have taken a very serious view of this increase in number of near-misses,” said Lalit Gupta, joint director of the Directorat­e General of Civil Aviation.


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