A near-miss over Kathmandu, Nepal has taken an odd turn after Nepalese aviation authorities elected to interrogate the female Air India pilot involved in the incident while not even speaking to her co-pilot, a male captain who was sitting next to her as the incident occurred.
Air India Female Pilot Questioned Over Near-Collision While Her Male Co-Pilot Is Not Bothered
On March 24, 2023, an Air India Airbus A319 traveling from Delhi (DEL) to Kathmandu (KTM) as AI213 nearly collided with a Nepal Airlines Airbus A320 traveling to KTM from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) as RA416. The Air India aircraft was traveling at 19,000 feet and began descending to 15,000 feet as it approached Tribhuvan International Airport. But the Nepal Airlines flight was already at 15,000 feet and not descending.
As the Air India flight descended to just above 15,000 feet, Nepalese ATC did not ask the Air India pilots why were they descending. Suddenly the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) alarms went off inside the cockpits of both planes.
That prompted the Air India A319 to ascend sharply to 16,500 feet and Nepal Airlines A32o to rapidly descend to 13,500 feet.
Usually when something like this occurs, an investigation takes place in the aftermath to seek to understand what went wrong to cause the near-miss. Here, however, Nepalese Air Traffic controllers purportedly took the female pilot aside and pressed her for more details on the incident. An Air India pilot told the Times of India:
“On landing, the woman pilot who was co-pilot on this flight (though also a senior captain) was asked to come to meet ATC officials. Now if there has been an airmiss or air proximity incident, the same has to be investigated by regulatory authorities. The lady pilot offered to speak over telephone but she was asked to come in person. In a dingy room, five officials spoke to her about the incident. This is highly improper.”
Indian authorities have now asked Nepalese authorities for an explanation of why that took place. Air India has temporarily suspended both pilots while the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has suspended three employees of the air traffic controller department for what a government spokesperson called “carelessness.”
While it isn’t clear who is at fault here, the unusual step of interrogating a female pilot in a room with five men while not asking her male co-pilot (and captain) to join the conversation strikes me as very odd.
The hero of this story, though, is the TCAS system, which was highly instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of passengers by warning pilots in both aircrafts that they were too close to one another.
What do you make of this incident?
image: Aero Icarus