IndiGo pilots mistook road for runway

IndiGo said it grounded two pilots of a flight from Ahmedabad to Jaipur for attempting to land their plane on a road.
IndiGo said it grounded two pilots of a flight from Ahmedabad to Jaipur for attempting to land their plane on a road.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MUMBAI • An Indian airline has grounded two pilots for attempting to land their plane on a road which they mistook for a runway.

The IndiGo flight from Ahmedabad in Gujarat state to Jaipur in Rajasthan was close to touching down when the pilots were alerted by a "too low terrain" warning in the cockpit, IndiGo said in a statement yesterday.

"The captain immediately...carried out a go-around. The aircraft landed safely on a subsequent approach," the airline added.

The incident, the latest to highlight safety concerns in India's rapidly expanding aviation sector, happened on Feb 27 but has only just come to light in Indian media.

The Hindustan Times quoted an aviation official as saying that the plane was at an altitude of around 275m and 90 seconds away from landing on a road running parallel to the runway.

IndiGo said the pilots were made aware of their mistake by an enhanced ground-proximity warning system, which alerts the cockpit if the plane is in danger of flying into the ground or hitting something.

"Both pilots have been taken off flight duty...pending investigation," said the statement.

"The matter was duly reported to the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation," the airline said.

IndiGo, famed for its no-frills approach and fixation with punctuality, commands almost 40 per cent of its home market, the biggest share of any airline. It is the country's only consistently profitable airline.

The government wants to make air travel affordable for millions of its citizens but a number of safety incidents has led to concerns over the speed of growth.

Earlier this year, an Air India plane with 160 passengers was forced to return to New Delhi almost 30 minutes into a Milan-bound flight after smoke was detected in the cabin. In December, a technician working for Air India died after being sucked into a jet engine as the plane pushed back for take-off at Mumbai airport.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'IndiGo pilots mistook road for runway'. Print Edition | Subscribe