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Seychelles-bound Etihad flight in ‘near miss’ with Emirates plane

Victoria, Seychelles | April 1, 2015, Wednesday @ 10:34 in National » GENERAL | By: Hajira Amla | Views: 10855
Seychelles-bound Etihad flight in ‘near miss’ with Emirates plane

An Etihad Airbus A320 similar to the above narrowly avoided a collision in Indian airspace with an Emirates commercial plane on Monday (Alex Beltyukov) Photo license: CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

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(Seychelles News Agency) - An investigation has been launched into a near collision over the Arabian Sea on Monday involving two commercial aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, one headed for the Seychelles and the other on its way from Seychelles to Dubai.

According to a report from Indian broadcaster NDTV, the planes, which were headed in opposite directions, were in Indian airspace when the Dubai-bound Emirates flight EK706 from Seychelles and Etihad flight EY622, heading for the Seychelles from Abu Dhabi, came dangerously close - as little as 25 seconds away from a potential collision.

Both the aircraft’s pilots reportedly received a ‘Resolution Advisory’ or RA, from the on-board Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), and an automated instruction to climb was issued in one cockpit, while the other cockpit received an instruction to descend to avoid risking imminent collision.

If two planes occupy airspace close enough that they could collide within the next 40 seconds, the system gives out a ‘Traffic Advisory’ or TA, which is a warning that there is a nearby traffic and that action may need to be taken soon.

However, an RA is given to pilots if the distance between the two aircraft would result in a risk of collision within 25 seconds, according to aviation experts. The pilot is required to comply within six seconds, and the instruction has priority over other air traffic control instructions.

An illustrated example of when traffic collision avoidance systems installed onboard modern aircraft issue Resolution Advisories, or RAs, which must be responded to within six seconds to avert the risk of collision. (Wikipedia/Eurocontrol) Image license: CC-BY

Due to the eruption of civil war in Yemen and the closing of Yemeni airspace, both airlines have had to divert their flights to and from Seychelles via Mumbai and Muscat airspace.

The matter was reported by both pilots to air traffic control in Mumbai.

“The incident took place over the oceanic airspace over the Arabian Sea where we don't have radar coverage. Whatever details we have is based on the report by pilots,” a senior official at the Airports Authority of India told NDTV.

The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating as the incident occurred in Indian airspace.

'Never at risk'

According to a report from UAE news website The National, an Emirates Airlines spokesperson confirmed the incident, claiming that the aircraft, passengers and crew were not at risk at any point.

“All Emirates aircraft are equipped with onboard instrumentation so that crew are alerted in a timely manner of all surrounding traffic,” said the spokesperson.

“The crew informed the authorities of the incident and later filed an air safety report, which will be forwarded to Mumbai air traffic control. Safety is of paramount importance to Emirates, and we will be cooperating fully with Mumbai air traffic control in the subsequent investigation.”

An Etihad Airways spokesman told SNA that the airline "strongly rejected" claims that the flight's safety was compromised,

"The traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which is fitted on all aircraft, ensured that safe vertical separation of both aircraft was maintained at all times," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said that Etihad Airways is assisting the GCAA [the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority] with its investigations as well as conducting its own probe into the incident, adding that safety was Etihad Airways’ “number one priority.”

Seychelles became dependant on Middle East carriers Emirates airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways for its passenger traffic from Europe, the main market of its tourists, since Air Seychelles stopped non-stop flights to Europe in early January 2012, following significant operating losses on the route.

Air Seychelles entered into a strategic partnership with Etihad in 2012, where the UAE carrier bought a 40 percent stake, which enabled Air Seychelles to sell codeshare tickets on its European destinations, and others around the world.

Qatar Airways stopped its Seychelles flights in September 2013, which then left Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the main links to the European markets. Air Seychelles announced in March its intention to re-open its non-stop flights to Paris in July this year with collaboration and support from Air France.

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Tags: Etihad, Etihad Airways, Emirates, aviation

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