MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – Air traffic controllers recorded another close call in Mexico City flight operations even as Mexican aviation officials were scrambling to respond to reports from international pilot and airline groups that The skies of the capital were in a state of grave confusion.
Government officials said a flight at Benito Juarez International Airport was cleared to land on a runway where another plane was scheduled to take off on Saturday night. This happened just hours after transportation officials set up a working group to discuss the increase in dangerous incidents in Mexico City’s airspace.
The head of Mexican Airspace Navigation Services, which manages the country’s airspace, resigned in a letter on Friday. Mexico’s Department of Communications and Transport, which includes that agency, initially denied knowing of at least 17 incidents of ground proximity warning system alerts for aircraft arriving at the airport last year alone. Confirms one.
Last week, the International Air Transport Association, which represents some 290 airlines, wrote to Mexican Airspace Navigation Services expressing concern about the close call.
“As you are aware, these alarms, without prompt action by the flight crew, can lead to the scenario of controlled flight over terrain, according to CFIT, which is considered by the industry to be one of the highest risk indicators in operational safety, and the highest with the accident rate, as well as the death rate,” the letter said.
The International Federation of Airline Pilots Association also issued a safety bulletin last week about such incidents. It suggested that air traffic controllers were not sufficiently trained to rebuild the capital’s airspace last year before the opening of the new Felipe ngeles International Airport north of Mexico’s capital in March.
Jose Alfredo Covarubias, general secretary of the National Air Traffic Controllers Union, suggested on Monday that officials from the Mexican Airspace Navigation Services were underestimating incidents in the capital’s airspace. The reconfigured airspace, he said, was leading to aborted takeoffs and landings and aircraft flying too close to each other.
“It’s definitely a bad, poorly done redesign,” Kovrubias said after a news conference. “There are areas where safety is not guaranteed.”
Victor Hernández Sandoval, who stepped down Friday as the head of Mexican Airspace Navigation Services, made no mention of the problems in his resignation letter. He had headed the agency since December 2018. Announcing the investigation into the latest close call at the airport, Transport Under Secretary Rogelio Jiménez Ponce said Hernandez’s resignation had been accepted.
Both the planes involved in Saturday’s incident belonged to Mexican airline Volaris.
Volaris chief executive Enrique Beltranena said via Twitter on Sunday: “Thanks to the training of our pilots and their impeccable adherence to procedures, no passenger or crew member was at risk.” He said that he immediately demanded a probe by the aviation authorities.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that the problems would be resolved, but he also suggested he was exaggerating and blamed the conservative opposition for it.
“Communication has been established since the weekend,” the president said. “Of course the problem needs to be addressed.”