A major incident was averted in February, 2019 when an IndiGo aircraft was close to touching down on an under-construction runway (RWY) at Male International Airport. The Airbus A320 with 106 people on board was operating a scheduled flight from Mumbai to Male. The incident was thoroughly investigated by the Indian aviation regulator, the DGCA, which has released a detailed report regarding what actually happened that day.
IndiGo flight 6E1783 was on approach to Male's runway 36 when the crew was informed that the ILS had become inoperative. The crew therefore performed a VOR approach (VHF Omni Directional Range Radio which measures the aircraft's bearing from a station) to runway 36.
The report also says that the crew was aware of one runway being under construction, parallel to the one that was active. After the first officer noticed the cross mark on the runway, the captain decided to go around at 12 feet AGL (height above ground level). The aircraft descended to 8 feet AGL above the runway under construction and then climbed out. The aircraft positioned for another approach and landed safely on runway 36. The report cited “inadequate flight planning by the operating crew despite (both these pilots) operating for the first time to Male” and “incomplete information given” to the pilots by the airline’s dispatch, for the incident.
The Pilot in Command (PIC) reported at the M/s IndiGo dispatch/airline office at Terminal 2, 12 minutes prior to the ETD of the flight to Male. As per the Operations Manual of IndiGo, operating crew are required to report 01 hour and 15 minutes prior to departure at airline’s dispatch office. In addition, as per the Operations Manual part-A, a standard allowance of 30 minutes is required to be added at the end of flight time to allow for the completion of checks and records.
Furthermore, it would have been evident at the stage of crew scheduling itself, that the time interval between the arrival of the aircraft and Pilot in Command (from Bengaluru to Mumbai, ETA: 0640UTC) and departure (from Mumbai to MALE, ETD: 0750UTC) was not sufficient to comply with the requirements stated in the Operations Manual-Part A.
Instead of the expected RWY18, RWY36 was in use at the time of clearance to approach into Male. The Operations Manual guideline regarding the new runway being to the left of the existing runway (guideline for RWY18 approach) was being recollected by the First Officer during approach to RWY36.
Though the crew members successfully sighted the two runways during approach, their discussion in the cockpit did not indicate that they had positively identified the runway they were instructed to use by the ATC. The ‘X’ markings on the under-construction runway to identify the non-availability of the runway, was spotted by crew members. However, the crew did not ask for clarification with the ATC nor did the ATC advise the crew that the approach path did-not align with the runway in use. The operating crew appeared to have remained unsure of their position relative to the active runway until the go-around, which occurred 12ft above the under-construction runway. The aircraft had descended to just 8ft above the runway under construction prior to climb.
After the go-around the crew clarified with the ATC tower whether they made approach to the wrong runway. The ATC Tower controller responded that the aircraft had in fact aligned to the wrong runway, which signifies that the ATC was also aware that 6E1783 was not aligned with the runway to which the aircraft was cleared to land.
IndiGo is yet to release a statement regarding the latest developments.