Near miss Ryanair

A blunder by Spanish air traffic control caused a “near miss” over the skies of Spain

SPANISH air traffic control made a serious blunder that caused a near miss and a potential air disaster over the skies of Spain.

On the afternoon of 2 October 2018, two Boeing 737-800s belonging to the Irish airline took off almost at the same time from Spanish airports.

The first flight was from Santiago de Compostela, flying southeast to Palma de Mallorca, with 178 passengers and six crew on board.
The other flight, from Seville to Toulouse, flew northeast carrying 154 passengers and six crew.
The two aircraft were at a cruising altitude of 34,000 feet as they converged just east of Pamplona in Spain.
Although both planes were in the same air space sector, the crew of the second aircraft were told by a controller to switch to the neighbouring Zaragoza air sector. So the pilots were communicating with air-traffic controllers in different sectors.
Unfortunately, The Madrid centre’s short-term conflict alert system was not working because of a software issue.
Thankfully the potential crash was identified by controllers across the border in France, in the Bordeaux Area Control Centre. With the planes on the same altitude and just 8.7 nautical miles apart, the French staff notified the controller in the Madrid sector of the conflict.
As controllers realised the situation and contacted the pilots, the two planes were only 5 miles apart and travelling at 500MPH.
Although the situation got worse, as two controllers gave the same instruction to the two pilots telling them both to descend.
Near miss flight plan
The report reveals:
The PAL controller told his aircraft: “Would you be so kind to descend to level 330 [33,000 feet] for a while? I’m afraid there’s some other traffic at 34 [34,000 feet] by your right”.

But the ZGZ controller also told his aircraft to lose altitude, saying: “Descend immediately level 320.”

Conferring with each other the two controllers according to the aviation report said to each other:

The ZGZ controller: “I’m descending mine, I’m descending mine”.

His PAL colleague said: “Mine is already descending!”

As the planes came just 2.3 miles in touch with each other thankfully both aircraft were fitted with a standard traffic collision avoidance system known as TCAS, which automatically issued “resolution advisories” to avert danger when a conflict is detected.

These evasion measures take priority over air-traffic control instructions.

The pilots disengaged their autopilot systems. As advised by TCAS, the first plane climbed while the second descended.

At the closest, the separation was just 334 feet vertically and 2.3 nautical miles horizontally, with the first aircraft above the second.

Ryanair’s pilots were cleared of any responsibility in the report after taking the evasive action: “The actions of the crews are deemed not to have contributed in any way.” it revealed as the blame lied with Spanish air traffic control.

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