• Two Vistara planes entered an active runway at the same time at Delhi Airport on August 23rd.
  • The ATC momentarily forgot previous instructions, allowing one plane to take off while the other was crossing the runway.
  • One of the pilots noticed the error and alerted the ATC immediately.

More than 300 lives were put in danger when two aircraft entered an active runway at Delhi Airport, with one of the planes taking off while the other was crossing after landing. The incident happened due to a momentary lapse by the ATC, but thankfully the tower controller realized the mistake in time and averted a potential accident.

Two Vistara planes enter active runway together

On August 23rd, a potential accident was averted at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) when two Vistara aircraft were allowed to enter the same active runway. One of the planes was departing for a flight to Bagdogra, while the other had just landed from Ahmedabad and was crossing the runway.

Vistara Airbus A320
Photo: WeChitra | Shutterstock

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Delhi is India’s busiest airport, with four runways, and the ATC has to constantly monitor a steady flow of incoming and outgoing traffic while maintaining adequate separation in the air and on the ground.

Pilot alerts ATC

The incident on Wednesday took place shortly after a Vistara Airbus A320 had landed from Ahmedabad. It has been reported that the ATC asked the aircraft to cross an active runway to reach its parking bay.

However, the controller ‘momentarily forgot’ the instructions given to the plane crossing the runway and cleared another Vistara A320 to take off from the same runway for its flight to Bagdogra. Thankfully, the alert Vistara pilot of the flight that had landed realized the error and informed the ATC in time to cancel the takeoff of the other plane.

Vistara Airbus A320
Photo: Airbus

The Bagdogra-bound plane immediately left the runway and returned to the parking bay for refueling and also to have its brakes checked. It eventually took off after a delay. India’s aviation regulator, the DGCA, has reportedly also derostered the ATC responsible for the runway incursion, and an investigation will likely follow.

Other incidents

While not an everyday occurrence (thankfully), runway incursions do happen. In 2021, an Air France Boeing 777 crossed an active runway in Mexico City without permission. The uncleared crossing took place around 800 meters beyond the runway's displaced threshold. The flight had not been cleared to cross the runway as it was occupied by a departing Aeroméxico Connect Embraer E190.

Earlier this year, a United Airlines Boeing 777 crossed an active runway in front of another aircraft landing. The near-miss incident also prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct an investigation and introduce a formal safety review.

United Airlines planes in maintenance programs at Sao Paulo.
Photo: Miguel Lagoa I Shutterstock

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In fact, following several near misses at US airports this year, the FAA decided to pay out more than $100 million to 12 airports in an effort to prevent runway incursions. The funds will go towards reconfiguring or constructing new taxiways and intersections, and new airfield lighting systems.

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