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Questions and concerns about traveling in India

Questions and concerns about traveling in India

Old Jan 8, 18, 2:20 am
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Questions and concerns about traveling in India

Hey, everyone. So, I was wondering if I could get some, wellÖconsultation on some anxiety Iíve been having about traveling to India. To give you a bit of background, Iím a 30-year-old man of Indian descent, but I was born and raised in Northern California. Recently, Iíve been trying to travel to India more often, and I try to go there about once a year to see my relatives for 1-2 weeks. I always fly into and out of Delhi (DEL), but I may also take a round trip between DEL and Lucknow (LKO) while Iím there.

Recently, my anxiety about flying to India has kind of flared up. Specifically, whatís got me kind of scared is hearing all these reports about how crappy the ATC in Indian airports is and how unprofessional the pilots on some of these Indian airlines are. Iíve read a bunch of reports about near-misses in Indian airports (such as TCAS situations and runway incursions), how bad the pilots on these Indian airlines can be (like the Jet Airways pilot who slapped his co-pilot), how incompetent the air traffic controllers at some of these Indian airports can be, how Indian pilots have been caught drunk on the job, how some pilots were being put in the captainís seat with 35 minutes of experience, how many pilots there have been caught with fake licenses, how so many aircraft in local Indian airlines are essentially falling apart, how Air India was apparently putting newspapers on their cockpit windows, and so on. Specifically, Iíve been reading these things on AvHerald, PPRUNE, in the Indian media, and on Reddit. The general consensus seems to be that Indian airspace is a disaster waiting to happen, so Iím wondering if itís really a good idea for me to fly there at all.

If I go, Iíll most likely take Singapore Airlines, as they seem to have the best service, one of the best safety records, and some of the best pilots in the world. I donít think anyone would disagree with that, right?

Even then, I have some questions and I was wondering if I could get some honest answers:
  • Are mid-air near misses and TCAS scenarios more common during a certain time of day? Iíve heard a few differing opinions. For example, Iíve heard that theyíre more likely during the daytime because aircraft lights arenít as visible. However, Iíve also heard that theyíre more likely at night because aircraft lights can sometimes be indistinguishable from the airport lights on the ground. Similarly, are they more common during a certain time of year?
  • Iíve heard of plenty of scenarios in which TCAS resolves a situation with two aircraft. How does TCAS work if there are more than two aircraft in proximity to each other? How often does such a scenario arise, and how likely is it?
  • Letís say youíve got two aircraft in a TCAS scenario and TCAS gives its advisories to both aircraft. And letís say that one of them ignores the advisory and just keeps going on its merry way. If the other aircraft follows the advisory, would that be enough to avert disaster?
  • How likely is it that a pilot, maybe a tired or panicked one, would ďzigĒ when told to ďzag". In other words, letís say TCAS tells a pilot to climb. How likely is it that, in such an instance, a pilot would accidentally descend instead? I mean, Iíve been in scenarios where, while driving, Iíve accidentally hit the accelerator when a light thatís not mine turns green. And people sometimes accidentally hit the accelerator instead of braking at a red light. Would it be safer to assume that a pilot with Singapore (or any other airline with reputable pilots) would be better equipped to handle such a situation than a pilot with a less reputable airline?
  • In such a situation, where one pilot ďzigsĒ when told to ďzagĒ, how would the pilot of the other aircraft respond? Is there anything that pilot can do to avert disaster?
  • We hear a lot about how Indian airspace is a disaster waiting to happen, how incompetent their pilots/ATC are, etc. How would you say Indian airspace, aviation, pilots, ATC, etc. are compared to those in the US, Europe, China, Mexico, etc.?
  • Globally, how common are these TCAS scenarios, and are they more common on developing aviation marketplaces (like India) than they are in, say, the US, Europe, etc.?
Obviously I have to take a plane to get into India, so Iím thinking I can at least minimize my risk by flying on a reputable carrier. But what Iím worried about is that, even if Iím on a Singapore Airlines flight, some idiot flying an IndiGo or Air India flight (with newspapers on its cockpit windows) is going to crash into my plane. As I said, I was thinking of flying between Delhi and Lucknow as well, but I think Iíd rather take a train than risk it with one of those Indian carriers.

So basically, I guess Iím just wondering what safeguards are there to protect a plane piloted by a competent pilot (with Singapore, Emirates, Lufthansa, etc.), but working in airspace with pilots and ATC who donít have the best reputation. In order to avoid a mid-air collision, does everyone involved have to be on top of their game?

Iím also wondering how ďfault-tolerantĒ TCAS is. Letís say TCAS gives its advisories to the various pilots, but for some reason, at least one doesnít follow it. Or letís say one of them accidentally does the opposite. How likely is such a scenario, and would TCAS then be able to correct for the mistakes made by those pilots?

On a side note, do newer aircraft have ďbetterĒ TCAS? For example, does an A380 have a better TCAS system than, say, a 15-year-old 737?
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Old Jan 8, 18, 8:56 am
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TCAS is pretty good about noticing zig instructions as being interpreted as zag. TCAS became mandatory in Indian airspace after a Saudi aircraft collided with a Kazakh aircraft near DEL in 1996: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charkh...-air_collision

Indian ATC has improved tremendously and is keeping pace with the rapid growth in Indian aviation. Besides local traffic, hundreds of widebodies travelling the East-West corridor to S.E. Asia and southern China cross Indian airspace each day without issue. Remember the airspace over Tibet on the northern side of the Himalayas is off limits to commercial aircraft for a number of reasons (mainly no chance to do a drift down), so to get from Europe to southern China or S. E. Asia there is no way around India. Just take a look at the traffic above DEL right now: https://www.flightradar24.com/airport/del/map

Bottom line is that Indian air travel is about as safe as any other major market. Western airspace is probably populated with an equal number of weirdos, but the yellow press is not very interested in that here. The fact that pilots flying the many regional jets in the US earn less than a truck driver doesn't make the news. Read the Colgan Air crash report for more on that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407
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Old Jan 9, 18, 2:55 am
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wow....this has to be one of the most paranoid posts i've ever read on ft....
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Old Jan 9, 18, 3:04 am
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Originally Posted by Keyser View Post
wow....this has to be one of the most paranoid posts i've ever read on ft....
I agree it sounds like the OP would be better off taking the bus
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Old Jan 9, 18, 11:29 am
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Would Singapore Airlines with "some of the best pilots in the world" be flying in and out of India if your supposed concerns were at all real? However, I did read in the National Inquirer that.....
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Old Jan 10, 18, 6:33 am
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Originally Posted by sully242 View Post
However, I did read in the National Inquirer that.....
what????what did you read????tell us please....don't leave us in suspense....
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Old Jan 11, 18, 3:38 am
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That really does sound pretty paranoid. I wonder if you'll be able to handle traffic on the roads in India given your concern about the one mid-air..? India is a fascinating place to visit. Don't let a little (ok, maybe more than a little..) paranoia stop you from traveling to such an amazing place.
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Old Jan 11, 18, 1:29 pm
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I fly in and out of India and within India often. The flights and planes are no different from anywhere else. In fact, some of my flights within India was awesome!
1. Now, most of Indian airports are quite modern and amenities depend on the airport.
2. I have seen unprofessional pilots and flight attendants even in the top 10 airlines. They all have good and bad days. I was overwhelmed by the cheerfulness of the pilots and drew on a very late flight on the New years Eve! They have taken time from their Holidays to transport you. The same was true of the Christmas day flight in India on my flight to BLR to MAA.
3. Indian passengers are mostly professionals, because of the cost of flying and are better behaved than passengers I have seen in many transatlantic flights.

If you are that concerned about India trip, please don't go. India does not want you worried during your stay. Perhaps, your parents could tell you the advances India has made.
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