Air miss: An instance of two or more aircraft in flight on different routes being less than a prescribed safe distance apart. It was 1 December 2000. I was sitting in a window seat of a Chennai-Delhi flight of the most popular private airliner. Two of my colleagues occupied the middle and aisle seats. We were travelling to our head office to participate in a monthly sales review. As our performance was in line with our target, we were in a happy mood discussing how the last month went, how we missed some of the critical bookings and how surprisingly we still managed to do well.
The ever-smiling air hostess started explaining safety precautions and as usual most of the passengers looked at her with a kind of sarcastic look: “What’s going to happen in a 2 hour 20 minute flight? Finish your lecture fast and take off, we need to reach Delhi on time.” As the private airliner had a good safety record such feelings were understandable. And true to their commitment for punctuality, the flight took off sharply on time and after 30 minutes, the air hostess started serving breakfast. As we were in the front rows, we got our servings early and I started removing the foil to find sambar, chutney, dosa and upma.
I was just about to have my first spoon of upma and suddenly there was a loud sound; the plane was falling and I felt uncomfortable in my stomach. As I looked out of my window, I could see another aircraft in the opposite direction: just like automobiles criss-crossing on highways. Passengers were hurling abuses, some who were not wearing seat belts even hit the ceiling. As I was wearing my seat belt, the sudden drop in altitude of about 300 feet created a pressure on my waistline; my breakfast was strewn all over the place.
Everybody started talking in a husky voice. The air hostess apologised for the sudden turbulence due to unforeseen weather conditions and requested us to wear seat belts and remain calm. When we alighted at Delhi I repeatedly asked what happened, and the reply was “nothing serious, only customary turbulence common for this season”. We finished our meeting and returned (in the same flight with our fingers crossed) to Chennai safely and after 12 days, newspapers reported an undisclosed air miss due to safety lapse (which was pertaining to the flight we were in!) There were 35 near-miss incidents from March 2015 to March 2016, according to statistics submitted in the Lok Sabha. And I was one of the 200 odd passengers to experience the scary feelings of an air miss on 1 December 2000.