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Bird hit forces flight’s emergency landing

Bhubaneswar: A bird hit Indigo’s Bhubaneswar-Delhi flight on Sunday evening while taking off from Biju Patnaik International Airport here.

All 191 passengers safely landed back in the airport minutes after the bird hit at 6.30 pm.Airport sources said the flight engineers checked the aircraft and didn’t find any damage.

“An owl was found on the runway and the pilots asked for emergency landing at the airport here.

With 191 passengers, the flight took again for Delhi after nearly two hours,” said airport director Suresh Chandra Hota. The director said bird hazard control measures will be intensified.

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Aviation Industry Reports Its Slowest Start In Four Years

India’s aviation market was off to its slowest start in four years.

Airline passenger traffic in the world’s fastest-growing market rose at 20 percent in January as 11 million Indians flew in domestic carriers. Yet, that was the slowest pace of growth in the first month since 2014, according to data compiled.

The passenger growth for Interglobe Aviation Ltd., the parent of IndiGo, rebounded after six subdued months. For the second half of 2017, IndiGo reported below-industry growth due to a delay in capacity addition.

The company continued to lose market share, albeit at a slower rate in January, for the seventh straight month. Its share was still the highest at 39.7 percent, while the passenger load factor or capacity utilisation stood at 89.7 percent for the month.

IndiGo’s domestic flight cancellation rate spiked due to engine problems. This is expected to persist in February as the company grounded three aircraft, resulting in cancelled flights. In June 2017, cancellations had spiked due to engine problems in its Airbus A320 Neo planes.

While passenger traffic for other bigger carriers like—Air India Ltd., Jet Airways Ltd. and Spicejet Ltd.—rose below the industry average, it was higher for smaller airlines like GoAir, Air Asia and Vistara.

Passenger load factor, a measure of capacity utilisation, grew for only four carrier among the top seven—Air India, Jet Group, SpiceJet and Vistara. It fell for IndiGo, GoAir and Air Asia over a year ago. SpiceJet has clocked a 90 percent-plus passenger load since May 2015.


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Two Indian Air Force pilots killed in plane crash

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force said two of its pilots were killed Thursday after their plane crashed in a remote northeastern state.

The microlight plane crashed soon taking off for a routine sortie from Johrat airbase in Assam state.

An Air Force official said the pilots attempted an emergency landing but the plane crashed and burst into flames. The incident took place at Sumoimari Chapori, an officer told.

The micro-light aircraft crashed soon after it took off from the Jorhat Air Base on a routine sortie around noon. The wreckage of the plane has been sighted and a court of inquiry ordered, officials said.

It is suspected that the crash took place due to technical reasons, officials added.

Tezpur-based defence spokesperson Lt. Col. Harshvardhan Pande told, that the two pilots killed in the crash were identified as Wing Commander Jai Paul James and Wing Commander D Vats.

The pilots attempted an emergency landing but the aircraft crashed at a sand bar in the northern part of the district and went up in flames, the official said.

The crash took place at Darbar Chapori, a sand bar in the Brahmaputra, where there is no human habitation. People from other villages of the district spotted the aircraft going up in flames and informed the district authorities.


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Vistara – Air India incident story that was turned into an accident by media

A near miss incident involving a Vistara Delhi -Pune flight and an Air India Mumbai-Bhopal flight could be one of the most discussed and widely reported aviation incidents recently in India. Though the report that was carried first on 11th of this month  has brought aviation safety to sharp focus again.

The is a gist of the report(s):

On February 7, night  an Air India flight (Mumbai to Bhopal AI 631, an Airbus A 319-112) was travelling at 27,000 ft towards Bhopal.  A Vistara flight (UK997, Airbus A320-251N) that was inn the same skies flying towards  Pune from Delhi at 29,000 feet suddenly started descending to 27,000. The astonished area controller asked the Vistara why it left the assigned level of 29,000 and going to 27,000 and the pilot of the craft retorted that she was told by the controller to do so. The argument was heard by the AI pilot too, because She too was tuned to the same frequency. Then to her horrors,  the AI commander noticed  the Vistara flight speeding towards her flight just 2.8km away. Then the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) of both the aircraft issued a very urgent collision warning (resolution advisory). The warning said, “climb, climb” to the AI  flight and the pilot climbed up and turned right immediately to fly clear of Vistara, to escape the doom that was imminent. The level difference between two flights was just 100ft before AI flight climbed up, as per TCAS. When their paths crossed each other , the level difference was just 600ft. Whereas, the allowed minimum vertical separation was 1000ft.

The original reports published by media houses and the rehash of those reports made the readers think that:

  1. The two aircraft were traveling in opposite directions
  2. Both aircraft were maintaining their respective levels- 27,000 and 29,000 feet – cruising along peacefully until the Vistara started descending from 29,000 to AI flight’s 27,000 level.
  3. It was the presence of mind Air India pilot that saved the lives of as many as 271 people on board of both aircraft. She acted precisely and swiftly when faced by a life threatening eventuality.
  4. But for the AI pilot, the two aircraft would have collided each other, face on.

But the actual facts couldn’t have been more different:

  1. Direction of the fights: The aircraft were not traveling face to face towards each other. At the time of conflict, the angle made by the flight paths of two aircraft were apporx 120 degrees – not 180. See the picture.
  2. No level flight: After taking off at 7.40 PM from Mumbai airport, the Air India aircraft was still in the climbing phase of the flight (It had to reach the cruising altitude of 33,000ft within a few minutes) and so it was gaining around 1000-1500 feet per minute, consistently. And the Vistara flight, that had left Delhi 6.50PM was steadily losing altitude for a landing at Pune airport at 8.52PM.

Bothe aircraft were NOT staying at any particular altitude. One was climbing, the other was descending.

See altitudes of Air India flight 631 was maintaining before and after the incident (From 23,600 to 28,300 ft)  (Log from flight tracking site Flightaware).

  • At 08:28:23pm  23,600ft
  • At 08:28:54pm  24,600ft
  • At 08:29:24pm  25,100ft
  • At 08:30:01pm  25,800ft
  • At 08:31:00pm  27,200ft
  • At 08:31:40pm  27,400ft
  • At 08:32:40pm  27,800ft
  • At 08:33:07pm  28,300ft

And these were Vistara flight’s levels :

  • At 8:28:18pm  31,500ft
  • At 8:28:49pm  31,000ft
  • At 8.29:19pm  30,200ft
  • At 8.29:49pm  29,300ft
  • At 8.30:19pm  27,800ft
  • At 8.30:49pm  27,000ft
  • AT 8.31:38pm  26,600ft
  • At 8:32:09pm  26,600ft
  • At 8:32:43pm  26,800ft

So here we have two flights traveling at two level s heading to two destinations and whose flight paths were to be crossed at some point of time.  And just as it was the only logical step, the descending aircraft was told by the Mumbai Area Control to stay above and the climbing one to stay below, so that they could be allowed to pass each other at the first safest point of time when the vertical and lateral separation between the two was safest.
And to repeat that again, it was only natural for the Vistara flight to climb down sooner or later.

  1. The pilot who braved odds to save lives?
    Not really. The pilots of both the aircraft were just obeying the orders issued by the computer of TCAS of their respective aircraft. The AI commander climbed up because the TCAS decided that was better and ordered her to do so. Just like the Vistara co-pilot, who lowered her aircraft as per the TCAS command. And there was nothing marvellous in these actions either. All the pilots are thoroughly trained to do that and they are bound to follow the exact procedure. And the decision maker is not the pilot, but the TCAS computer. The course of action is decided collectively by the TCAS computers of both the planes after assessing the speed, altitude, mode of flight and bearing of both the planes.  And when the computers issue the verbal command ( to climb or to descend, mostly) the pilots have no choice but to obey blindly.
  2. A certain doom scenario? The chances of a collision was less, though the TCAS had ordered the pilots to climb/descend immediately. Even if the planes  were proceeded in the same levels maintaining the same speed,  the chances of actual collision were remote.

See the pictures that show the full flight paths of the aircraft and the enlarged view of the point where the Resolution Advisory was given by the TCAS around 8.30pm, 7th February.

One aircraft was at 27,000ft and the other was at 27,100ft altitude. The speed of the Air India flight was 1080km/hr. The Vistara flight was covering 763 km in an hour. The lateral separation between the flights was 2.8km. The bearing of Vistara flight was 177 degrees and that of AI was 74 degrees, approx.

If we draw two lines extending the path of both the aircraft, it can be seen  that  they would cross  each other at a distance of 2km (down) from the present position of Vistara fight. To reach that point, the time  taken by Vistara would have been 9 seconds. But during those 9 seconds, AI flight would  been moved 3.9km away from its present position.
So there were no collision going to happen.

But then what about the TCAS urgent warning?  Can computers go wrong?

The computers of course were not wrong. Only that, these systems always incorporate a factor of safety in all calculations. An extra allowance will be added to all the distances and heights. And that is how it should be.

The Area Controller factor

In the sensationalized media reports, this character got only a passing mention – but that was damaging enough.  According to the report, the AC was taken by surprise  ‘seeing’ the Vistara fight at level 271.  The question the AC reported to have asked the Vistara pilot – “why are you here?”-  betrays his total lack of control over his job. A person constantly monitoring the flight can’t be taken off guard like that.  So he indeed was a villain, though not the main one, in the story.

The main villain and the heroine

And about the main one, there were enough ingredients- lucky for the reporter- to spice up the  whole thing: the co-pilot was a woman; she was alone; her Commander was not anywhere near at the critical moment.  A young, in experienced, ignorant girl of a pilot left  alone to find her way out of the mess she had made was the perfect dark background for the heroine of the story.
And what a heroine it was to be !

– A mature, elegant woman in her late forties with 20 years of flying experience under her belt, the Air India commander was the perfect picture of the cool, composed superwoman who averts imminent disaster at the nick of time.

And it will be highly inappropriate to end this note without mentioning an effort actually made by the ToI reporter to guess why there was a ‘confusion’ between the Vistara flight  and the AC.

” 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,” said sources.”

So the assumption is that the AC got confused between the two woman voices.  It is sad that the reporter didn’t pause for a second to think about the numerous male voices an AC hears throughout the day from the cockpits of so many flights, without confusing among them.  Before writing down this silly guess, the reporter should have tried to understand a basic norm too of radio communication : Before the start of each instruction, the controller has to spell  the call-sign of the aircraft he is giving the instruction. And when the pilot replies, she/he also has to say his call-sign at the end of his words. And above all, the aircraft is constantly being  monitored visually on the radar screen, by the AC at the Area Control.

The leak

How the details of the incident found their way to the media is intriguing, to say the least.

In both the reports,  there were details that were known only to the people directly involved in the incident and to the officials of DGCA who had received reports from the parties involved – the facts that the Vistara co-pilot and Air India commander were women and the Vistara male commander was taking a toilet break during the incident are examples.

The AC , AAI and the Vistara crew  would not have leaked the info, for obvious reasons.  The remaining parties are the Air India crew and the DGCA.  Given the heroine status given to and readily accepted by its senior pilot, Air India of course is the chief suspect.  And they couldn’t have done that alone.  The other half of the story unfolded the night of 7th February aboard the Vistara flight must have been filled in by someone who had access to the report Vistara sent to the DGCA.

But why?
Why should someone from Air India and/or DGCA take the pains to give these details to the press? Not for the sake of air safety, that is obvious. If that was so, the report would have been much more accurate and the day-two story glorifying the AI commander would never have happened.

The ongoing investigation by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau will serve its purpose fully only if the answer to the above legitimate question too is found out.

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Two top airlines risk passengers’ lives, fly faulty planes with faulty engines

New Delhi: At least 23 aircraft of Indigo Airlines had 69 engine failures over a span of 18 months between March 2016 and September 2017. A mega investigation  has revealed that the airline suffered about four engine failures every month over this period, thus risking lives of passengers on various routes.

Documents accessed  reveal that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) flagged the issue of frequent engine removals of Indigo A320 Neo aircraft. The airline, however, failed to take any concrete action on the matter.

According to the reports in our possession, show how 13 Go Air planes and 32 Indigo planes have been flying with faulty engines. Alarm bells started ringing in the DGCA, when, in an internal communication, it was revealed that a total of eight aircraft have been waiting for engine replacements- two requiring both engines replaced.

Responding to the investigation, Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation said that the government is not “going to compromise on safety”. He added that the safety standards followed by the DGCA are “world class” and that any violations “will be looked into”. He said that the government is carrying its own investigations into the matter.

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Vistara, Air India flights narrowly avert collision at 27,000 feet in Mumbai airspace

Vistara flight and an Air India flight averted a mid-air collision by seconds in the Mumbai airspace on 7 February, according to reports. The Vistara flight had descended to an altitude while the Air India plane was flying in the opposite direction. The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has launched a probe in the incident.

The Vistara flight, UK 997, was on its way from Delhi to Pune, while Air India’s AI 631 was flying from Mumbai to Bhopal. While the Air India aircraft was maintaining a level of 27,000 feet, Vistara’s Airbus descended to a height of 27,100 feet, which means that the vertical separation between the two aircrafts was merely 100 feet.

Sources, quoted proximity of the two aircrafts had set off Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) alarms in the cockpits of the two flights, thus helping the pilots avoid the crash.

The commander of the Air India flight acted swiftly on the instrument warning and steered the aircraft to a safer distance, a senior official of the airline told.

The two pilots of the Vistara flight have been grounded, pending investigation, while the Air India pilots have been cleared for flying by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau(AAIB) for not being at fault, the official added.

Following the incident, a Vistara spokesperson said in a statement, “The safety of our customers and staff is of paramount importance to us, and at Vistara, we diligently follow all the safety regulations and guidelines. In this particular incident, the Resolution Advisory (RA) got triggered due to conflicting traffic. Our pilot followed the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to avoid it and carried out an uneventful landing. The matter is under investigation by relevant authorities,”

Meanwhile an Air India official said, “The Air India aircraft was going as per the ATC instructions. There was no confusion. But it seems that something had gone wrong between the Vistara pilot and the ATC as the Vistara aircraft kept descending while the ATC was giving different instructions. There was some kind of an argument between them.”

“The Vistara aircraft continued descending. So, finally, when our pilot saw the warning (the Vistara aircraft breaching the mandatory separation) on board, she just took the corrective action and turned the aircraft from the collision point,” the airline said.

The Air India pilot’s action was perfect as she followed the Resolution Advisory and steered the aircraft to a safer distance, it added.

“The AAIB has cleared our pilot for flying,” the Air India official said.

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Tyre of Delhi-bound SpiceJet flight bursts at Chennai Airport, Passengers Safe

The rear tyre of a Delhi-bound SpiceJet flight burst while take off, prompting an emergency landing at the Chennai airport around 2.25pm on Thursday. Following the incident, the runway was closed for maintenance till 6PM. The authorities said all the 199 passengers travelling in the plane are safe.

The incident happened as the flight departed from the airport around 1.43pm. Soon, the crew members informed the airport authorities that some ‘hydraulic’ glitch had occurred in the plane, following which it decided to make an emergency landing at the airport. The authorities said the plane’s rear tyre burst as it touched the tarmac.

In an official statement, SpiceJet said: “SpiceJet Chennai-Delhi flight suffered a suspected tyre burst at the time of take off. The crew decided to turn back and landed safety at Chennai. Passengers were deplaned safely in a normal manner and taken to the terminal building.”

The Chennai Airport authorities said on Twitter the tyre burst happened due to hydraulic problem on the starboard side of the plane. “Today around 1425 hrs tyre burst & hydraulic problem in MAA-Delhi bound SG106, led to its emergency landing. Aircraft landed safely but with another tyre burst on starboard side. All 199 passengers on-board safely deplaned and returned to terminal.”

The authorities also tweeted “Due to damage to main runway and aircraft stuck in taxiway near the runway the same will not be available for operations for at least 3 hours. Secondary runway is in use currently. Inconvenience caused to passengers is regretted.”

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U.N. body to conduct security audit at Chennai Airport

Chennai: The Chennai airport, the fourth busiest airport in the country, is all set to face a major security audit by the U.N. body — The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) — next month, officials said.

In case, the ICAO makes adverse remarks, International Airlines may tighten security checks at the transit airports.

From policies in place to equipment with regard to security, a four-member team from ICAO will look at every single facility in the airport. “They will see if internationally prescribed norms are being followed, including regulatory framework, passenger and baggage security, training of security personnel, the entire airport operations and security aspects of aircrafts as well,” an official said.

The Airports Authority of India(AAI) and airline officials started preparing for this audit nearly one month ago and to assess if they could resolve any existing issues. Officials said about 300 CCTV cameras were placed at the cargo area recently; now, they also plan to cover the city side (area outside the terminals of the airport) with another 400 cameras over the next three months. “Some areas inside the terminals have not been covered now, but we will install them in those places as well,” another official said.

In November last year, the ICAO had said it was satisfied with the air safety system put in place by the Director General of Civil Aviation satisfactory after a preliminary audit.

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GoAir 720 Ahmedabad-Delhi Flight Suffers Bird Hit, Flight Cancelled, All Passengers Safe

Ahmedabad, February 7: GoAir’s Ahmedabad-Delhi flight on Wednesday  morning suffered a bird hit. There were about 166 passengers on board who had a close shave following a bird-strike. The incident took place when the Delhi-bound GoAir flight number 720 was climbing after take-off from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. As per reports, all the 166 passengers are safe and the flight. As a precautionary measure, the flight was cancelled.

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Address Infrastructure Crisis to Secure Aviation’s Future IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling for urgent attention to address infrastructure challenges in order to secure the industry’s future.

“Having the infrastructure to grow is vital to our industry’s future. But in many key places, it is not being built fast enough to meet growing demand. And there are worrying trends which are increasing costs. One of these is airport privatizations. We have not found the correct regulatory framework to balance the interests of the investors to turn a profit, with the public interest for the airport to be a catalyst for economic growth. All the optimism supporting strong aircraft orders will mean nothing if we don’t have the capability to manage traffic in the air and at airports,” said Alexandre de Juniac in his keynote address to the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit (SAALS). The theme of the Summit is ‘Reimagining Aviation’s Future’.

De Juniac highlighted the lack of airport capacity in Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila as his top concerns in the Asia-Pacific region. “At the other end of the spectrum, we have Seoul’s Incheon Airport. They recently added runway and terminal capacity without raising charges for airlines and passengers. And, Incheon has extended an airport charges discount introduced two years ago. This sets a very positive example for other airports to follow. It also demonstrates great understanding of the role aviation plays in linking the Korean economy to economic opportunities globally,” said de Juniac.

“The Singapore government is also showing great foresight with its expansion plans for Changi Airport, including Terminal 5 (T5). But there are challenges. We must ensure the plans for T5 are robust enough to meet the high standards of airline operations and passenger convenience users of Changi Airport have come to expect. And we need to get the funding model right to avoid burdening the industry with extra costs. The prize to keep in sight is the airport’s contribution to Singapore’s overall economy,” said de Juniac. There have been reports on plans to introduce a tax on passengers and increases in charges to fund the construction of Terminal 5. The airline industry does not support pre-funding to finance in advance infrastructure projects.

Ensuring sufficient and cost-efficient infrastructure in Asia-Pacific is a top priority. The region is center stage of the industry’s overall growth. By 2036 we expect 7.8 billion people to travel (up from 4.3 billion expected in 2018). Of the 3.5 billion trips to, from or within the Asia-Pacific region in 2036, 1.5 billion will touch on China. As early as 2022 China will be the largest single aviation market. India is another emerging power-house—even if it will take longer to mature. And nearly equal potential could be realized as the Indian aviation market continues to develop.

In his keynote address, de Juniac also identified five fundamental areas that need to be protected when reimagining the industry’s future, the theme for SAALS:

Safety: “We had a stellar year in 2017. But there are always ways to improve—particularly as our data analysis capabilities grow. I would like to imagine a future for aviation with no accidents. We need to improve on safety, particularly as our data analysis capabilities grow,” said de Juniac.

Open Borders: “Aviation needs borders that are open to people and trade. The ASEAN single aviation market is an important development. I would like to imagine a future for aviation where airlines are as free as possible to meet the demands for connectivity. We must be a strong voice in the face of protectionist agendas,” he said.

Global Standards : “A common set of rules underpins the aviation industry’s success—in everything from safety to ticketing. And I would like to imagine a future where global standards continue to be strengthened by the cooperation of airlines and government through institutions such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and IATA,” said de Juniac.

Sustainability: “Our commitment to cut emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050 is ambitious. And I would like to imagine a future where our net carbon impact is zero.” Industry and governments have agreed on a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) as one of its four pillars in a common strategy to ensure aviation meets this responsibility.

Profitable : “I would like to imagine a future where airlines generating normal profits is the norm, not a rarity.” 2018 is the ninth year of profitability since 2010, and the fourth consecutive year in which the return on invested capital is expected to exceed the cost of capital.

The Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit is co-organized by IATA, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and Experia Events

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