Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) handled 1,200 overflying flights as Pakistan closed its airspace

In 24 hours, the Mumbai Air Traffic Control had handled about 1,200 overflying flights, almost 60 per cent higher than the 750-odd overflying flights it handles daily.


With the Pakistan airspace shut, Air Traffic Controllers in Mumbai have been serving as the virtual bridge between the west on one side and Southeast Asia and India on the other since Wednesday, the Mumbai air traffic control found itself thrown into a war-like emergency. Within seconds, its phone lines were buzzing with calls from Delhi and Ahmedabad air traffic control asking for help for their airborne flights, bound west, with new, tactical routings that would circumvent the Pakistan airspace.

As minutes ticked away, further calls came in from west-bound flights that had departed from airports in the Far East like Hong Kong, Jakarta, Hanoi, Brunei, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and those from the west flying east, all seeking alternative routings overflying Mumbai instead. In 24 hours, the Mumbai air traffic control had handled about 1,200 overflying flights, almost 60 per cent higher than the 750-odd overflying flights it handles daily, and in the process set a record of sorts.

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Pakistan airspace is expected to re-open at 1:00 pm on Friday. Once that happens, commercial airlines may resume the straight path. Recommended By Colombia Five air routes or airways that lie over Karachi and Lahore airspace were shut at 2:00 pm IST, affecting about 500 flights. A senior Air Traffic Controller said that these flights were re-routed to overfly Mumbai through an air route called ‘L301’ (Lima 301). L301 starts near Malaysia, overflies Chennai, Nagpur, Mumbai and onwards to Oman.

On a normal day, about 20 flights fly per hour through L301. On Wednesday, 35-40 flights passed per hour, almost double the traffic and on other air routes like P574, M300, traffic went up by 50 per cent. For instance, a Delhi-Dubai flight would normally overfly Lahore and onwards to Oman and Dubai. The new routing had the Delhi flight fly down to Ahmedabad and then over Mumbai to use L301 to reach Oman. About 150-200 international departures from Delhi passed through Mumbai on Wednesday, most using L301. Apart from this, flights from Kathmandu, Lucknow, Varanasi etc too overflew Mumbai.

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