A spectre of a mid-air collision loomed large over Bagdogra in West Bengal on Friday, when an Air India flight and an Indigo flight came too close for comfort, risking the lives of 250 passengers.
The incident occurred when the Air Traffic Control gave clearances to both aircrafts to reach the same height, as per Press Trust of India.
The Air India flight 879, carrying 120 passengers, was descending at the same time that the Indigo Bagdogra-Delhi flight 6E472 was given the clearance to climb the 30,000-feet height with 130 passengers on board.
While two flights must always keep a minimum of 1000 meter distance from one another, the Air India and Indigo flights found themselves much closer, and only a critical-moment maneuvering by the pilots helped avoid a collision.
The incident brings back tragic memories of aircraft disasters in the country that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.
Here is a look at five of them over the last two decades–
- Mangalore Air Crash, 2010 -One of the most tragic incidents to have occurred in recent years was when the Air India flight overshot the runway at Mangalore's table-top airport, thus falling into a gorge taking 158 lives with it. Passengers on board the Air India Express flight IX-812 from Dubai to Mangalore met their end on 22 May, 2010. The accident was blamed on the pilots' error while landing on what is regarded as a tricky runway. Hindustan Times had reported that the pilot in command had actually dozed off and was disoriented.
- Boeing 737 crashes into housing complex in Patna, 2000 – TheAlliance Air Boeing 737 crashed into a residential complex near the Patna airport on 17 July 2000, leaving 51 passengers dead. The 20-year-old plane came down in flames almost a mile away from the airport crashing into a housing complex, killing several on the ground as well.
- Mid-Air Collision in Delhi, 1996 – 351 passengers, mostly Indians, lost their lives in the worst mid-air collision in history when a Saudi Arabian jumbo jet collided with a Kazak Airlines plane over the Charkhi Dadri village near the New Delhi Airport back in 1996. The death toll is one of the highest in an airplane crash making it one of the deadliest air accidents, and threw light on the lapses in India's air traffic procedures. Following the accident, The Civil Aviation Authorities in India made it mandatory for all aircraft flying in and out of the country to be equipped with an Airborne Collision Avoidance System.
- Indian Airlines flight hits lorry on highway outside Aurangabad Airport, 1993 – In one of the most bizarre air accidents, Indian Airlines Flight IC 491 ran off the runway to hit a lorry and crash into flames in a field outside Aurangabad Airport in 1993. According to a passenger account to The Independent, the plane "lurched off the runway at Aurangabad airport, careened into a powerline, bowled over a lorry passing on a highway, broke into pieces as it skidded across a field, and caught fire". 55 of the 118 passengers lost their lives.
- Mumbai-Bangalore flight crash, 1990 – On February 14, 1990, celebrated as Valentine's Day, Indian Airlines Flight 605 flew completely off course while descending and crashed near the Challaghatta Lake in Bangalore, killing 92 people. Among those killed were the members of the Birla family, the Times of India had reported.