News

Collision Averted in Mumbai Between Air India Jetliner, Presidential Helicopter Fleet

A potential disaster appears to have been narrowly avoided at South Asia's busiest airport.  A fleet of VIP helicopters landed at Mumbai's airport just as a domestic commercial airliner was about to take off.

The quick reaction of an Air India pilot prevented what could have been an aviation tragedy.  Flight 866, leaving Mumbai for Delhi with about 150 passengers and crew on board, was taking off when pilot S.S. Kohli saw one of three military VIP helicopters landing in front of his Airbus A-321.

"The chopper came in front which was given a clearance. I was given a take-off clearance. ATC [air traffic control], he didn't have a contact with the chopper," said Kohli.

The helicopter was one of three that were landing at the same time, carrying a group of dignitaries, including Indian President Patibha Patil.

A passenger on the Air India flight, Hitesh Solanki, told reporters at the airport the cockpit crew aborted the takeoff by slamming on the emergency brakes.

"I was praying to God that I am flying and keep me safe.  At that time the pilot applied the emergency brake.  I just came out of my seat and everybody came out from the seat and everybody was seeing here and there what's happening.  Then I saw a chopper was crossing our flight.  Distance was just to near 20 to 25 meters, I think," said Solanki.

No one on any of the four aircraft is reported to have been injured. President Patil was transferred to the government Boeing 747, known as VIP, 1 as planned, and she was flown to her scheduled functions in the state of Gujarat.

Civil aviation authorities and the Defense Ministry quickly ordered official inquiries into the near collision.

Domestic media quote airport officials as saying responsibility lies with Mumbai Air Traffic Control, which had apparently allowed the helicopters to land at the same time and place it had cleared the airliner for takeoff.

Industry officials have warned for years that India suffers from a dangerous shortage of thousands of air traffic controllers and that those in the towers are overworked.

Indian media reports say the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is re-evaluating India's air safety standards and there is a possibility of the country's air-worthiness rating being downgraded because of safety, training and personnel deficiencies.  A downgrade would relegate India into a status along with such countries as Guyana, Indonesia, Serbia and the Ukraine and prevent Indian airlines from expanding service to and from the United States.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs