Mexico is capping the number of flights at the main airport in Mexico City and moving more flights to a new airport after a fresh incident added to concerns over aviation safety.
The news came days after a near-miss at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez Airport (MEX) when a Volaris Airbus A320 had to perform a last-minute go-around to avoid landing on an aircraft that was lining up on runway 5L.
Aviation safety in the country has come under scrutiny after Mexico opened a new airport in the capital, with global pilots’ association IFALPA issuing a safety bulletin on May 4 for MEX.
With MEX over capacity, Mexico decided to utilize the Santalucia military airbase to the northeast of Mexico City and convert it to a mixed-use airport. That hub, Felipe Angeles Airport (NULU), opened on March 21, 2022.
However, IFALPA said it had been made aware of “several incidents” since the new airport opened. The pilots’ association cited aircraft arriving at MEX with low fuel due to unplanned holding, excessive delays and also alerts from ground proximity warning systems, where one crew almost hit terrain.
“It would appear that with the opening of this newly converted airport, ATC has apparently received little training and support as to how to operate this new configuration in the airspace,” IFALPA commented in the bulletin.
In the latest incident, Volaris flight VOI 799, from Mazatlán, registration XA-VRV, was cleared to land on runway 5L on May 7, 2022. However, Volaris Costa Rica flight VOC 4069, also an Airbus A320 with registration N545VL, had been cleared to line up on runway 5L to take off for its flight to Guatemala City (GUA).
Disaster was averted by another crew warning the Volaris aircraft on approach that the runway was occupied. Video of the incident shows the A320 performing a go-around at low altitude.
The head of the country’s air traffic service SENEAM, Víctor Hernández Sandoval, has resigned following the incident and Mexico’s transport ministry has begun an investigation into the incident.
The transport ministry has also set up a group with various aviation bodies, including IATA, IFALPA and unions representing pilots and air traffic controllers to improve safety in Mexican airspace.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government said in a statement on May 10, 2022 that it wanted to schedule more than 100 daily flights at NLU, with the first stage of the process to start from August 2022. Charter and some cargo flights will also be moved to NLU immediately, according to the statement, which was reported by Reuters.
In addition, no new flights will be authorized to MEX and slots will not be increased beyond those already planned for the summer 2022 season.