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Published on : Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Praise from all quarters were heaped upon a quick-thinking pilot for helping avert a mid-air collision between two passenger jets that could have resulted in the death of hundreds of people on board.
Emirates Airbus A380, Flight EK703, flying from Dubai to Mauritius last Friday, was cleared to descend to 38,000 feet by Air Traffic Control as it was approaching the Indian Ocean island, while an Air Seychelles Airbus A330, Flight HM54, having taken off from Mauritius travelling in the opposite direction. However, the crew of the Emirates plane, which is configured to carry as many as 615 passengers, incorrectly stated that its altitude was 36,000 feet.
When it was realised that the Emirates plane was higher than previously thought, and with the Air Seychelles A330, which could have been carrying up to 277 passengers, flying towards it, a Traffic Collision Avoidance System alert was initiated.
The two crews were able to see each other before the pilot of Flight HM54 turned a sharp right to avoid a collision. The two aircraft eventually passed each other at the same altitude but around 14 kilometres apart, according to media reports.
A spokesperson for Air Seychelles commended the pilot’s actions. “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,” a statement read.
“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.”
A spokesperson for Emirates said: “Emirates has received reports of an event on July 14, 2017 in relation to aircraft separation involving flight EK703 in Mauritius airspace. The matter has been reported to the respective air transport authorities and Emirates will extend its full cooperation to any investigation. The safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance.”