Air Canada 787 on Low Fuel has a difficulty with ATC for diversion

For those of you who remember, about a fortnight ago, Mumbai had a runway closure on the night of September 19 when SpiceJet had a plane incursion on the primary runway of the airport, and due to the heavy rains, the secondary runway could not be made operational. As a consequence, for a few hours right after the incident, no planes were able to land at Mumbai and everyone had to be sent to other airports (diversions).

What became representative of the incident was this flight between Toronto and Mumbai, Air Canada’s AC46 which was supposed to land at Mumbai after usually 14.5 hours of flying but had to eventually head to Hyderabad for a diversion.

AC46 diverted to Hyderabad

AC46 diverted to Hyderabad (Courtesy: Flightradar24.com)

Flightglobal reports that the aircraft C-FGEI left Toronto on September 18 with 177 pax and 14 crew. As per AvHerald, after a long flight to Mumbai, the plane had just been given permission to land.

However, right after they started to approach Runway 14/32 their permission was cancelled owing to the aircraft stuck on the runway, in which case the AC aircraft initiated a Missed Approach and went into a holding pattern. After 1 hour of hold over Mumbai, like you can see in the flight above, they figured they did not have more patience (perhaps in terms of fuel) for this, so they set about for their planned alternative airport. Given that was full (perhaps Ahmedabad, but not stated in the reports), they decided to go to Hyderabad.

En route to Hyderabad, the ATC informed the plane that there was no space in Hyderabad as well to accommodate them. Only now there were more than 16 hours of flying and the only thing on a pilot’s mind was going to be a safe landing. So, the pilots declared Mayday given their low fuel state and after 4 Mayday calls was allowed to land in Hyderabad. As per AVherald,

The flight crew declared Mayday due to being low on fuel, however, ATC instructed them to enter a hold and tried to divert them several times before giving them a direct route to Hyderabad following the fourth (!) Mayday declaration. The aircraft landed on Hyderabad’s runway 09L 118 minutes after aborting the approach to Mumbai.

The comments in the Avherald report have a nice insight from people in the air that night about how did the entire situation work out.

Bottomline

I’m only too happy that the pilot stuck to his guns and managed to land that plane. I’m sure Mumbai ATC was working beyond capacity to make sure no more incidents happened but on the other hand, I’d have expected other ATCs to perhaps have a more hands-on approach trying to accommodate rather than shuttle planes around. Planes eventually got diverted all over the place to Delhi, Muscat and where else, but the situation I’m sure, in hindsight, could have been managed much better and the SOPs could be reworked for accommodating such situations.

Comments

  1. Ajay

    The core issue is that ATC ignored a Mayday. It is the highest level of alert and signifies imminent life threatening dangers to plane and passengers.

    It is an inviolate rule across the world. I have detailed the codes and procedures specified by the Australian ATC services provider as well as the FAA in response to a Mayday on Bangalore Aviation.

    If the ATC has doubts they can lodge a complaint AFTER landing. But once a Mayday is declared it is imperative to get the plane on the ground at the nearest suitable facility. If HYD full, deal with the issue AFTER the plane has landed.

    and there will be an enquiry. If the AC pilots declared Mayday wrongly they can be stripped of their license.

    Added to this North American pilots are, due to the nature of their skies, very respectful and responsive to ATC.

    ATC routinely face emergencies and part of the protocol is to call in standby staff if needed.

    • @Devesh, the issue is multifaceted. So it could be the ATC at fault or the Pilot or fault or perhaps no one at fault except for the event at hand. So we need the investigation report to come out to know what really happened. On the other hand, Mayday needs to be also followed by Declaration of Emergency now to be able to gain the mindshare of the ATC. As for ATC calling in stand by staff, given I was in Mumbai that day, I can tell you that anyone who was not in the building that day, must not have been able to make it there. That rain was of unimaginable proportions.

  2. A headline can make a difference in NEWS! Onemileatatime also wrote about this with different headline. And offcourse the content is not “friendly” with the local people….

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