Hindustan Times (Delhi)

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


The Airports Authority of India that controls the ATC and the airlines mentioned in the story did not respond to HT queries.

Experts say the alarming rise is because of a crippling staff crunch in the ATC that is working without a quarter of its sanctioned strength, as India approaches the 20th anniversar­y of the world’s deadliest mid-air collision that occurred near Delhi.

In November 1996, a Kazakh and a Saudi aircraft crashed into each other in the skies above Chakhri-Dadri near the Capital, killing all 349 people on board. A probe cleared the ATC but held that a miscommuni­cation between the controller and the Kazakhstan pilot led to the collision.

An analysis of DGCA records on near-misses from January 2011 to May 31 this year indicates 2016 could see the highest number of potential collisions since 2011, which witnessed the most such incidents, 29.

There have been 16 incidents this year till May 31. Compare this with first five months of previous years: in 2012, there were eight cases while nine cases each were recorded in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Even in 2011, the first five months witnessed only 13 incidents. Earlier this month, HT had also reported that safety violations by pilots are also up 30% from the correspond­ing period last year.

“The numbers of near misses are alarming. The ATC needs to urgently increase staff strength and airline operators need to keep doing refresher courses for staff,” said Mohan Ranganatha­n, a civil aviation safety expert.

Gupta said the DGCA asked all air operators and ATC to provide detailed classroom sessions on Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and crew resource management training.

Officials say the rise in potential collisions is the result of a steady climb in air-traffic.

But DGCA data on flight operations show only a 17% increase on air operations in 2016 compared to same period last year.

In 2016, till May 31, there were 366,781 departures, whereas it was 312,542 for the correspond­ing period in 2015.

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