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Kazakh aircraft held responsible for Charkhi Dadri mishap

The Justice R C Lahoti court of inquiry, which went into the mid-air collision over Charki Dadri on November 12 that killed 349 people held the crew of the Kazakh IL-76 plane responsible for causing one of the worst accidents in the history of civil aviation.

Official sources said the 200-page report, submitted to Civil Aviation Minister C M Ibrahim on Tuesday, blamed the Kazakh pilot for descending below the level of 15,000 feet assigned to him and coming in the direct path of the Saudi Airlines Boeing 747 which had left Delhi for Dhahran and Jeddah.

The Justice Lahoti commission was initially asked to submit its report by February 15 but delays forced it to be given a six-month extension.

The court of inquiry began preliminary investigations into the air tragedy, the third worst in the history of civil aviation, four days after the incident on November 16.

Justice Lahoti and the two assessors of the court, Captain A K Verma, general manager (training), Air-India and Air Commodore (retired) T Pannu -- visited Charkhi Dadri for an on-the-spot study.

Thereafter, the commission which was to give its report by February 15, ran into procedural delays over the problem of decoding the black boxes of the two planes.

While the Saudi Arabian airline was keen to decode its Boeing 747 cockpit equipment in London rather than in India, the IL-76 Kazakh plane's had the decoding done in Moscow.

Since by April 4 the court of inquiry had not had a single hearing, the civil aviation minister gave it an extension of six months to complete its probe.

In the meantime, the preliminary report by the inspector of accidents, Captain K P Nair of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, was submitted to the commission along with transcripts of the black boxes of both aircraft and the report of the Accidents Investigations Board, Farnborough, United Kingdom.

In the preliminary submissions before the Lahoti commission, which began hearing on April 25, the Kazakh airline blamed the approach control tower and the air traffic control at the Indira Gandhi airport for the collision.

Kazakh Airlines counsel D C Singhania contended before the court of inquiry that the prevailing weather conditions over Charkhi Dadri also contributed to the collision as it forced the aircraft to come below its assigned level of 15,000 feet.

The Kazakhs charged that the Delhi approach tower and the ATC knew almost 16 minutes before the collision that there was another aircraft directly ahead on a reciprocal course but informed the Kazakh pilot just 38 seconds before the accident.

The Saudi Arabian officials, during their submission, accused the Kazakh airliner of not sticking to the guidelines set by the ATC.

Lalit Bhasin, counsel for Saudia, told the commission that the records showed the ATC had asked the Saudi aircraft to stay at 14,000 feet and the incoming Kazakh plane to remain at 15,000 feet. The Kazakh aircraft did not obey the order.

The Saudis also claimed the accident could have been averted if certain procedures had been followed and if the ATC facilities had been manned and equipped properly.

Deposing before the commission on May 12, the Airports Authority of India defended the Delhi Air traffic controllers and blamed the Kazakh airlines' crew for the mid-air collision.

AAI counsel N A K Sharma said the clearance and directions issued by the ATC to the two aircraft on their inward and outward movements were entirely in conformity with the current international aviation practice.

The absence of flight discipline in the Kazakh plane's cockpit, together with the crew's difficulty in understanding English, caused the IL-76 to descend below the level assigned to it, he said.

AAI also said the "turbulence theory" was "invented" by the Kazakh airlines to explain away the IL-76's descent.

Neither the meteorology department nor transmissions from other aircraft in the area, including the Saudia Boeing, supported the turbulence theory, he said.

DGCA counsel R K Anand also pooh-poohed the 'turbulence theory' and said the sudden drop in the Kazakh aircraft's altitude was due to 'stickiness' in the altitude transducer.

ATCs blameless in Charkhi Dadri tragedy, claims counsel
Communication gap caused mishap: ATC guild
Kazakhstan govt says ATC shortcomings contributed to air mishap
Collision occurred in "heavy clouds", says US pilot

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