July 4, 2022

There was a pretty terrifying incident at Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) on Saturday…

Two Volaris jets have runway incident at MEX

Two Volaris Airbus A320s nearly collided on runway 5L at Mexico City Airport on Saturday:

  • A Volaris Airbus A320 operating flight Y4-799 from Mazatlan was on final approach to runway 5L, and was cleared to land
  • A Volaris Costa Rica Airbus A320 operating flight Q6-4069 to Guatemala City was cleared to line up on runway 5L, in preparation for takeoff

The planes came within seconds of colliding, and this was only avoided thanks to another crew radioing a warning about the conflict. The Volaris Airbus A320 ended up initiating a go around, but must have been within 100 feet or so of the jet on the runway.

Below you can see video footage of this very close call.

The Volaris jet on the runway ended up departing a few minutes later, while the Volaris jet that initiated the go around successfully landed with the next attempt.

Suffice it to say that incidents like this are extremely rare. While go arounds happen all the time (including due to traffic on the runway), it’s typically not this last second due to not realizing there’s a plane on the runway.

The worst part? According to The Aviation Herald, Mexico’s Ministry of Traffic claimed not to have a report about the incident. That doesn’t exactly paint a picture of a great safety culture, if an incident this serious isn’t reported to authorities and investigated.

General Mexico City airspace concerns

The timing of this latest incident is interesting, because around the same time there have been general concerns raised about safety in Mexico City’s airspace.

In March we saw the opening of the new Felipe Angeles International Airport (NLU). This is a new airport to the north of Mexico City, which is a converted former military air base. The issue? Air traffic controllers have allegedly been insufficiently trained to operate the newly configured airspace, leading to an increase in incidents. It’s also claimed that air traffic controllers aren’t using standard phraseology in their communications with flight crews.

Pilots and airlines have written letters to the Mexican Airspace Navigation Services to express concerns over the increasing number of close calls in the airspace.

According to the letter:

“As you know, these alarms, without the quick action of the flight crew, can lead to a scenario of controlled flight into terrain, CFIT, considered by the industry to be one of the highest risk indicators in operational safety, and with the highest accident rate, as well as fatalities.”

“It would appear that with the opening of this newly converted airport, (air traffic control) has apparently received little training and support as to how to operate this new configuration in the airspace.”

In 2021, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating, from a Category 1 to a Category 2.

A Category 2 rating means that the country’s laws and regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country’s air carriers in accordance with minimal international safety standards, or that the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping, inspection procedures, or resolution of safety concerns.

So while that’s not specific to the situation in Mexico City, it does seem like some oversight is lacking in Mexico’s busiest airspace.

Bottom line

On Saturday, two Volaris Airbus A320s nearly collided on a runway at Mexico City Airport. One aircraft was cleared to line up on the runway, while the other aircraft was cleared to land. It was only at the very last second that a go around was performed thanks to another pilot spotting the incident and calling for a go around.

All of this comes at the same time that a variety of airlines have raised safety concerns about Mexico City airspace, as there have been an increasing number of incidents.

What do you make of this Volaris incident at Mexico City Airport?

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