Staff Reporter

Mumbai: Two Air India pilots have been suspended following an enquiry into Sunday’s near-collision between an AI aircraft and a Jet Airways plane at the airport here.

However, the Air Traffic Control’s (ATC) obsolete equipment is as much to blame as are the AI pilots, an AI source claimed on Tuesday.

When an ATC official gave the Jet pilot clearance for take-off, the AI pilot too responded. Multiple pilots responding to the same command was not unusual, the source said on condition of anonymity. The official, however, did not hear the AI pilot’s response because of faulty equipment.

As a result, both planes readied for take-off on cross-runways (runways that intersect in an ‘X’ formation) at the same time when only the Jet pilot had the clearance.

This situation arose because the Mumbai airport had started round-the-clock operations on its cross-runways on Saturday, the source said. Cross-runway operations were on in many cities of the world including Chicago. But in Mumbai, the decision was not highlighted properly.

The ATC operates with only 214 air traffic controllers, against the projected requirement of 325.

Four years ago, the ATC strength was 180. At that time, the Mumbai airport handled a traffic of 22.2 million passengers, according to figures given by Manish Kalghatgi, Public Relations Officer for the Mumbai International Airport Limited.

Since then, the ATC strength has gone up by 34, while the number of passengers went up to 23.4 million in 2008-09.