A serious incident took place over the skies of Germany but everyone appears far more interested in Donald Mugwump’s orange hairdo. Forget the hurricane that barrelled into Mozambique, CNN, let’s concentrate on the Wicked Witless of Mar-a-Lago. To the point. An Indian commercial jet identified by its flight number 9W118, a Boeing 777-300, registration VT-JEX, spent 33 minutes in German airspace in total radio silence leading to German fighter jets scrambling to intercept a possible terror strike. Interesting no? The news fundis out there will all leap up and say irrelevant no-one died so what’s the problem and anyway, Donald’s Dump is far more important to the free world.
You see this incident over Germany is an early warning to all of us who take long-haul flights around the globe. To summarise. A Jet Airways flight en route to London from Mumbai and carrying 345 passengers and crew went off the radar over Cologne. That led ATC to try to contact the plane for a total of 33 minutes while one of the pilots slept, and the other had the radio tuned to the incorrect frequency and his headphones turned down. We could say that both were asleep but that would be incriminating so we won’t.
While the formal inquiry gets under way in India, here are some salient points of this incident. After the long period of silence, the German Air Force scrambled two Eurofighter Typhoons to intercept the flight. Shortly before the fighter planes arrived the pilots were shaken from their revery by Indian officials who must have been embarrassed. They did so after a rather remarkable series of events according to the Times of India. A second Indian flight identified as 9W122 contacted Indian flight operations who then were forced to use a satellite phone to contact the pilots of 9W118.
Here’s a link to what airline pilots must do when a fighter plane intercepts their flight.
The Times of India reports this all happened over 15 minutes. Here is an excerpt from German aviation:
“Contact between Jet Airways flight 9W 118, from Mumbai to London Heathrow, of February 16, 2017, and the local ATC, was briefly lost while flying over German airspace.Communication was safely restored within a few minutes. As a precaution, the German Air Force deployed its aircraft to ensure the safety of the flight and its guests.”
The highly respected and brilliant Aviation Herald has more. They claim the pilots entered the incorrect frequency for after being handed over from Bratislava to Prague Centre. The crew apparently typed in “132.980MHz” into their comms, rather than “132.890MHz” which meant they weren’t connected to anyone.
Radio contact was restored about 60 nautical miles north of Nuremberg but the jet fighters continued to intercept. The total time on the wrong frequency was not brief, it was 33 minutes. That’s 266 nautical miles or 495 kilometres. German surveillance captured the images and video, while the incident was also noted by ground observers based north of Cologne.
Both pilots have been suspended, or in aviation speak, de-rostered until the incident is fully investigated by the Indian and German authorities. Not a great day.
But let’s not be self-righteous, I’ve quite often tapped in the incorrect frequency but usually someone has quickly corrected my error. The other day I broadcast on 125.8 and had failed to flick over from Comms 1 (set at this frequency) to Comms 2 – Joburg Special Rules South 125.6 under TMA. An unknown aviator somewhere out there said “you’re on the wrong frequency, South is 125.6”. Thank you kind sir. That’s always embarrassing but has never been dangerous. I’m an amateur trying to make as few mistakes a possible.
Then again, I’m not being paid $20 000 US or more a month to ferry hundreds of passengers around the world.