SriLankan Airlines plane avoids collision with S'pore-bound British Airways plane over Turkey

SriLankan Airlines issued a statement in response to the incident.

Belmont Lay | June 16, 2022, 02:12 AM

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Pilots of SriLankan Airlines flight UL504 en route from London to Colombo have been praised after they reportedly averted a mid-air collision with a Singapore-bound British Airways plane over Turkey on June 13, according to multiple reports in Sri Lanka, such as this one by Colombo Page.

News of the near-collision was also reported by Singapore's 8 World.

The vigilance of the pilots were credited for preventing a catastrophe, Hindustan Times reported.

SriLankan Airlines issues statement

The pilots were lauded by their own SriLankan Airlines national carrier, which issued a statement as a clarification in response to the incident at around 10:30am local time on Monday (3:30pm Singapore time).

The national carrier said the “vigilance of the pilots and the state-of-the-art communication and surveillance system onboard the aircraft enabled safe passage for UL504”, which downplayed the initial reports that a crash could have occurred.

What happened

SriLankan Airlines, UL504, was flying from London to Colombo.

The A-330 Airbus was carrying 275 passengers and 15 crew.

A British Airways plane with more than 250 passengers on board had just left Heathrow shortly after the UL504 flight had taken off.

The British Airways flight was travelling from London to Dubai and then to Singapore and was reportedly moving at a faster speed than the SriLankan Airlines plane.

Sri Lankan plane told to move to higher altitude

Sources familiar with the incident said Ankara air traffic control informed the SriLankan Airlines pilots to climb to 35,000 feet from 33,000 feet upon entering Turkish air space.

But doing so would put the SriLankan Airlines plane in the flight path of the British Airways plane.

UL504 crew then took steps to immediately inform the authorities and question the instructions, but was reportedly told there were no other planes at the higher altitude.

Plane system showed another plane in vicinity

Instead of immediately complying with the air traffic control instructions, SriLankan Airlines pilots observed on their plane's system that a British Airways plane was only about 24km (15 miles) from them at 35,000 feet.

Minutes later, the Ankara air traffic control urgently informed the SriLankan Airlines pilots about the presence of the British Airways flight and instructed them to remain at 33,000 feet.

In total, the SriLankan Airlines pilots were erroneously given the go-ahead twice by the Turkish air traffic control.

The two planes could have collided mid-air had the SriLankan Airlines plane flown into the path of the British Airways plane at 35,000 feet.

Incident made known after report filed

UL504 eventually landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka in the evening.

A report was subsequently filed, sources said.

Top photo via Wikimedia