November 27, 2022

How AI 1947 avoided dangerous airspace during Ukraine operation | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Just as Air India 1947 was about to enter Ukrainian airspace from over the Black Sea on Tuesday, Kyiv air control gave it a couple of last-minute changed approach directions. While heading to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, the usual 60-80 nautical mile (nm) turn to line up for final approach was cut short to 40 nm after asking the crew if it was okay with stabilising for landing in that reduced space, say sources. Once the AI Boeing Dreamliner 787 Dreamliner landed the crew came to know the detours were due to military activity in the airspace that was sought to be avoided by those changed routing.
The Maharaja’s touchdown with five pilots (to quickly operate the return flight), 18 crew, three engineers and two security personnel brought a big smile to the faces of the 242 Indians waiting at the airport to fly back to the safety of their home country. The personnel then quickly got down to organising the return in just over an hour with the pilots supervising the stacking of check-in baggage of passengers to ensure that centre of gravity is maintained; the security personnel doing both profiling and ladder point security check at the aerobridge and cabin crew getting passengers seated.
Kyiv is not a city that AI has flown to and it does not have any ground staff there. An external ground handling agency was hired to do the job under the supervision of the AI personnel who flew on the Boeing 787 (VT-NAA).
Sources say, Captain Karan Mehra, the senior-most among the two other commanders — Captains Rajiv Khurana and R K Sharma — and two first officers Disha and Kartik, is a veteran of evacuation flights. He had operated several evacuation flights to Libya and Benghazi in 2009.
“The ground stop in Kyiv was 1 hour and 10-15 minutes. Time was running out and there was an apprehension AI 1946 (the return flight to Delhi) may miss its take-off slot at Boryspil. There was also fear of pilots’ maximum flight duty time limitation may hit its limit. The pilots went to oversee that passengers’ cabin baggage is loaded properly. AI 1946 took one-off just in time to avoid missing those issues,” say sources.
AI had taken “great” Indian meals from India for this quick return flight. “All the passengers had reached the airport early in the morning. They were apprehensive about whether the flight will reach Kyiv and then take off from here. This flight had taken more than the required quantity of meals. The crew was told to serve as many meals as flyers ask for,” say sources.
The big change the crew observed was in the warmth of the Ukrainian air traffic personnel. “We used to fly over Ukrainian airspace very frequently before the 2014 shooting down of MH 17 after which we stopped overflying the country.”
Ukraine had about six months back approached AI to resume overflying the country. AI did not then take up Ukraine’s offer, a decision that has proven to be the correct one given the geopolitical situation now. Overflying is a major source of revenue for countries, something that Ukraine had been trying to revive after MH 17.
ATC personnel of all en route countries were very cooperative as they knew it was a special evacuation flight.

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