*** Finnair and Aeroflot Planes in Near Collision in December
Some Russian planes do not show on new radar at Helsinki-Vantaa
A chartered MD-83 passenger jet of the Finnish airline Finnair, returning from the Spanish city of Malaga, came close to colliding with an IL-62 of the Russian airline Aeroflot above the city of Espoo on December 15. The two planes were at an altitude of about two kilometres when they passed each other at a distance of 150 metres. According to air traffic safety rules the altitude distance between two aircraft should be at least 300 metres.
When the situation occurred at 16:45 Finnair flight AY 2162 was getting ready to land at Helsinki-Vantaa airport. The Aeroflot flight, SU 204, had just taken off from Helsinki en route to Moscow when the two planes approached each other from opposite directions.
According to Jussi Haila of Finland`s Accident Investigation Board, which investigates reports of such dangerous situations, the Russian plane was flying at a higher altitude than it had been assigned by air traffic control at Helsinki-Vantaa. Also, the Russian plane had not been picked up by the radar of the air traffic control, even though it had been airborne for about five minutes.
The collision warning alarm in the Finnair plane went off only five seconds before the midair pass, and at that time, the Russian plane also showed up on the air traffic control radar.
The collision warning system is based on the transponders on the planes themselves which transmit the radar signal back to air traffic control. The signal from the transponder of the Aeroflot plane was not picked up by the radar of Helsinki-Vantaa air traffic control, or that of the collision warning alarm on the Finnair plane.
According to the report, when the collision warning came, the captain of the Finnair plane, with 149 tourists on board, had said that there was no real danger and continued the flight. The captain of the Aeroflot plane could still be unaware how close the planes came. Both aircraft were flying inside a cloud, and the pilots never saw each other`s planes.
There have been a few other reports of Russian airplanes disappearing from the radar at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in recent months. Haila says that it would appear that the new radar system at Helsinki-Vantaa airport does not always pick up the signals of the transponders of the old Soviet-built planes.
This theory is backed up by the fact that the same Russian planes were picked up by the regional air traffic control radar of Tampere and Rovaniemi.
The planes that were invisible to the radar at Helsinki-Vantaa airport were Soviet built airliners run by Aeroflot or Pulkovo AirLines.
Jussi Haila says that the issue is to be discussed on Wednesday at a meeting of Helsinki-Vantaa air traffic control and Finland`s Civil Aviation Administration.
``Helsinki`s air traffic control has recognised the problem, and they are somewhat more on their toes``, Haila says.