On the heels of a near-miss at San Francisco International Airport by an Air Canada A320 that could have been the “worst disaster in aviation history”, an Emirates A380 came dangerously close to an Air Seychelles A330 just north of Mauritius.
The Emirates A380 was traveling south from Dubai and had been cleared to descend as it approached Mauritius. It reported a flight level of 36,000 feet. Meanwhile, an Air Seychelles A330 was flying in the opposite direction from Mauritius to the Seychelles at a flight level of 38,000 feet.
Turns out the Emirates pilot reported an incorrect altitude and was also at 38,000 feet. The Air Mauritius captain spotted the A380 after a Traffic Collision Avoidance System alert was initiated. Making a sharp turn, the Air Seychelles captain avoided a collision as the two aircrafts zoomed by each other less than nine miles another. As a reminder, an Emirates A380 cruises at 560mph so nine miles takes under a minute.
Air Seychelles proudly commended their captain and first officer for avoiding what could have been a horrible tragedy:
We commend our Captain Roberto Vallicelli and Seychellois First Officer Ronny Morel who were operating the HM054 flight from Mauritius to Seychelles on the evening of Friday 14 July 2017.
Their training standard and operating protocols immediately kicked in which demonstrates the extremely high standards of training which our Air Seychelles pilots attain. We highly commend them for what they have done
Indeed, we do not have an indication on flight loads, but an Emirates A380 holds up to 615 passengers and the Air Seychelles A330 277 passengers.
Emirates simply said it is investigating, but we have heard nothing further a week later.
This near-miss was not nearly as close as what happened in San Francisco, but nevertheless too close for comfort. What is comforting is that when pilots and ATC commit errors, redundant systems like Traffic Collision Avoidance System can still aid in averting tragedy.