Near-Miss Over Somaliland Averted by Quick-Thinking ATC

By Ivan PetrenkoMar 28, 2024 04:30 AMNews
White and red passenger plane in the sky
White and red passenger plane in the sky. Source: unsplash

In a tense moment above the Horn of Africa, an imminent collision between an Emirates Boeing 777 and an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX was narrowly avoided, thanks to the swift actions of the Somaliland Civil Aviation and Airports Authority (SCAAA). The incident occurred on March 24, highlighting ongoing concerns about air traffic control efficiency and flight safety in the region.

Both aircraft were cruising at 37,000 ft when they received conflicting instructions from air traffic controllers in Mogadishu, setting the stage for a potential disaster. Emirates Flight EK722, operating from Nairobi to Dubai, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET690, en route from Addis Ababa to Bangalore, found themselves on a converging path due to these miscommunications.

The critical situation unfolded at 00:43 EAT, with both jets perilously close to each other. It was the quick response from Somaliland's air traffic control, in cooperation with the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines flight, that prevented a collision. The Ethiopian 737 MAX pilots made an immediate ascent to 39,000 ft, ensuring a safe distance between the two airliners.

This incident underscores the vital role of proficient air traffic control in safeguarding the skies, especially in light of recent reports of similar near misses in the airspace over the Horn of Africa. The repeated errors by Mogadishu's air traffic controllers have cast a spotlight on the urgent need for enhanced oversight and training within the region's aviation sector.

The airspace management in this area is particularly complex due to the ongoing dispute between Somalia and Somaliland over airspace sovereignty. Despite Somaliland's claim to independent management of its airspace, it remains internationally unrecognized, adding another layer of complexity to the region's aviation operations.

This close call comes on the heels of another incident in February 2024, involving a Qatar Airways 787 and an Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350, which also narrowly avoided collision due to conflicting ATC instructions. These repeated incidents serve as a stark reminder of the importance of clear communication and precise coordination in air traffic management to ensure the safety of all flights traversing this strategically important region.

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