Mumbai airport is in the news again and not for any right reason. After a near fiasco with the presidential helicopter less than three months ago, a major disaster was averted at Mumbai airport on the same day that Mumbai airport has commenced 24 hour cross runway operations.
An Air India Airbus A310-300, flight AI-348 from Mumbai to Delhi, India with 104 passengers and further on to Shanghai, China, was waiting for takeoff clearance on runway 27.
A Jet Airways Boeing 737-800, flight 9W-615 from Mumbai to Kolkata, India with 120 passengers, was waiting for take-off clearance on runway 14.
Both aircraft started their take-off runs simultaneously at around 07:54 local (02:24Z). A controller in the tower recognized the upcoming conflict and ordered one of the two aircraft, reportedly the Jet Airways Boeing, to reject take-off. Both aircraft rejected their take-off.
It is unclear, whether both or just one of the two aircraft was cleared for take-off. Both airlines are claiming their flight received take-off clearance. Air India said, that both aircraft received takeoff clearance on crossing runways and both take-off clearances were cancelled by ATC. Jet Airways said, that their flight was cleared for take-off, however the Air India crew mistook the clearance and was subsequently ordered to abort their take-off. The Jet Airways crew rejected their take-off as a precaution, too.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered an investigation into the incident, requesting cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders of both airplanes as well as radar and voice recordings of Mumbai’s Air Traffic Control.
According to the initial DGCA report the Jet Airways Boeing 737 was cleared for take-off, but the Air India Airbus A310 also commenced it’s take-off roll.
Till now most Indian pilots are used to only one runway being in operation at a time and this may have played a role in this incident with pilots hearing just the “cleared for take-off” and assuming it applies to them. This is speculative and we should wait for the DGCA report.
Update 1 – (09:30 IST 04:00Z)
TimesNow TV is reporting it has access to the ATC tapes which clearly show the Air India pilot is at fault.
07:55 local – ATC instructs Air India AI348 to taxi on to runway 27 and hold.
07:56 local – ATC clears Jet Airways 9W615 for take off
Both aircraft start rolling.
ATC spots the potential conflict and orders the Air India flight to abort take-off.