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Friday, March 10, 2017

London bound Air India flight with 231 passengers loses contact for a while !

‘All is well that ends well’ – and when the ending is good, much is forgotten !!

Croydon Airport was an airport in South London straddling the boundary between what are now the London boroughs of Croydon and Sutton. It was the main airport for London before it was replaced by Northolt Aerodrome, London Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport. In 1921, it became the first airport in the world to introduce air traffic control.

Air traffic control (ATC) is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and through controlled airspace, and can provide advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace. The primary purpose of ATC worldwide is to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic, and provide information and other support for pilots. To prevent collisions, ATC enforces traffic separation rules, which ensure each aircraft maintains a minimum amount of empty space around it at all times. Many aircraft also have collision avoidance systems, which provide additional safety by warning pilots when other aircraft get too close.  The pilot in command is the final authority for the safe operation of the aircraft and may, in an emergency, deviate from ATC instructions to the extent required to maintain safe operation of their aircraft.

A London-bound Air India aircraft from Ahmedabad today had to be escorted by fighter jets after it lost contact with the Air Traffic Control while flying over Hungary. The plane, with 231 passengers and 18 crew members onboard, lost contact with the ATC due to "frequency fluctuation", an Air India spokesperson said. The aircraft, which took off from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai at 0700 hours, landed safely at London's Heathrow Airport at 11.05 hours, the spokesperson said.  It was eventsome ! ~ and high drama !!

For around two hours Hungarian, German and Belgian pilots shadowed the 787 Dreamliner, which was bound for Britain after leaving Ahmedabad in Gujarat overnight. The fighters were scrambled after it arrived over Hungary at around 8.15am but it failed to make radio contact, sparking fears it had been hijacked or was in trouble. The escort was continued by the German air force before Belgian F-16s intercepted the Indian national carrier's plane, taking it over Belgium and the Netherlands. But by the time the plane entered British skies the fault had been rectified and it did not require the RAF to escort it down.
Daily Mail (pic credit above too) reports that Hungarian, German and Belgian air force pilots shadowed the plane bound to Britain from Ahmedabad in Gujarat (the plane's route is in white, the fighter jets' may be in green)

It landed safely in London this morning and it appears it was a technical problem because by the time it reached Britain they air crew had made contact with the air traffic control.  

A fortnight ago, Jet's Mumbai-London flight reportedly remained incommunicado for almost 33 minutes - during which it would have flown almost 500 km -- and the issue began when it was over Czech airspace. While flying from Bratislava to Prague, 9W 118 was on correct frequency as it transmitted and acknowledged messages from the ATC. After that, the crew allegedly switched over to 132.980MHz and did not monitor the emergency frequency. When it got incommunicado while over Czech Republic and about to enter Germany, the Prague ATC spotted that 9W 122 (Delhi-London) was ahead of the flight from Mumbai. Prague then asked the Rhein ATC (in Germany) to contact the flight from Delhi.

The German ATC contacted a Delhi-London flight of Jet Airways (9W 122), which was flying ahead of 9W 118 last Thursday (Feb 16). The crew of the flight from Delhi contacted Jet Airways' flight operations in India which then used the aircraft communication and addressing system (ACARS) or a satellite phone to contact the pilots of 9W 118. Once alerted by this satellite-based communication, the Mumbai-London crew spoke to the ATC following which fighter jets flew away and the plane continued its flight to London.

Sources say that one of the pilots of 9W 118 was reportedly taking "controlled rest" - sleeping, something allowed by regulatory agencies - and the other had tuned into a wrong frequency, apart from which, his headset volume was low. Due to this, the other pilot could not be reached by the German ATC - due to wrong frequency. Neither could he be contacted on the universal emergency frequency of 121.5 MHz - with his headset at low volume.

Interesting ! or fearsome !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

10th Mar 2017 @ 21.30 hrs.

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