PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines has clarified that its pilots followed standard operating procedures (SOP) after one of its aircrafts narrowly avoided a mid-air collision with a Virgin Atlantic plane as both were approaching London's Heathrow Airport on Oct 23.
Malaysia Airlines said flight MH4, from Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow, was preparing to land when instructions were given by the air traffic controller (ATC) to commence a go-around as the runway was occupied by another aircraft.
"ATC gave an assigned heading towards the north of the airfield, which would place the aircraft at the base position for Runway 27R.
"The pilots in charge followed standard operating procedures (SOP) for such instances and gave ATC a read-back to the assigned heading," MAS said in a statement on Friday (Oct 26).
It added that there was no Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) that was triggered in the cockpit.
"Before reaching the assigned position, ATC then asked MH4 to head in a different direction, which the pilots duly did.
"To reiterate: safety is of the utmost importance to Malaysia Airlines, and all our pilots go through a very strict and comprehensive training and are required to complete 4,500 hours before being accorded captain status, well above the industry norms," it said.
According to UK Aviation News, the Virgin Atlantic aircraft, VS251, was flying from Shanghai to London Heathrow when the MAS airplane came into its flight path.
The report said Virgin was "aware that an aircraft came within three miles of the VS251".
It also said that the airline was working with the relevant authorities to understand how the incident could have happened.
The report also quoted NATS, UK's air traffic control services, where its spokesperson confirmed that there was a loss of separation between two aircraft on approach to Heathrow Airport.
"This was resolved by the approach controller and both aircraft landed safely.
“Almost 2.5 million aircraft safely fly though the UK every year, and these types of incidents are extremely rare.
"The incident has been reported to the UK Airprox Board which will investigate the circumstances and publish its findings in due course," it said.
The report also pointed out that both airlines would be filing report to the UK AirProx Board, an organisation that looks at air proximity incidents in the UK airspace.