Saudia blames Delhi air traffic controller for mid-air collision
The Saudi Arabian government on Thursday submitted before the Lahotia court of inquiry that neither the Saudi nor the Kazakhstan governments were represented in the investigations of the November mid-air collision between the two foreign aircraft over the Charkhi Dadri sub-division of Haryana.
Captain Omar Barayyan, appearing for the Saudi Arabian government, contended before Justice R L Lahotia that under the International Civil Aviation Organisation annexe-13 whenever a mid-air collision takes place between foreign airlines it is necessary for the government of the country where the accident occurred to involve the representatives of the governments concerned in the investigation process.
Even though the two aircraft were crossing each other with 100-foot separation on the same frequency at the same time, the controller did not provide the Saudi aircraft with any traffic advisory information, Saudia's counsel Lalit Bhasin said.
''The ATC has to inform both the aircraft about the instructions passed to any of the flights, but there was an utter failure by the ATC in doing so,'' Bhasin charged.
However, Airport Authority of India counsel Air Commodore N A K Sarma (retired) disputed Bhasin's charge that the accident was caused because of the absence of modern technology at the airport. All the airlines in the world, he said, were aware of the facilities available in India. ''They have to operate their flights keeping this in mind. The Indian government cannot be blamed for this,'' Sarma added.
The Kazakh Airlines's line of defence was that the pilot of its aircraft had to reduce the height of the flight because of bad weather. He blamed the air traffic control at the Delhi airport for not informing the aircraft about the Saudi flight.
There could have been better participation by the three governments concerned -- the Indian, the Kazakhstan and the Saudi Arabian -- in the investigation process, Captain Barayyan contended.
He also supported the submissions Bhasin made on Wednesday.
Bhasin had submitted that ''overworked staff and lack of proper
infrastructure'' at the international airport in New Delhi were the cause of
the accident. He also blamed Kazakh Airlines for the collision saying the flight
descended below its assigned flight level of 15,000 feet.
He said the airport had only one radar which was outdated. The fact that the Airports Authority of India had bought a highly sophisticated radar for the Delhi airport, which is yet to be installed, indicates that the airport lacks modern technology. ''This is a criminal neglect on the part of the AAI that the equipment has been lying idle for months now,'' he charged.
''The ATC controller handling both aircraft at the time of accident was overworked and his terminology and sequence of clearance delivery was below the acceptable standard,'' Bhasin said in his written submissions before the court of inquiry.
Considering the airspace utilisation constraints and the absence of a secondary approach radar, the controller was trying hard to remain
oriented to the traffic positions through repetitive calls to the same flight with the same instructions and queries, creating a lot of distraction and pressure for himself and the traffic, the counsel contended.
Bhasin said the international airport at Delhi, which
caters to flights from 40 countries besides the vast domestic
network, was handicapped by institutional deficiencies like
one narrow corridor for both the incoming and outgoing flights.