mamata’s flight scare: Six pilots taken off duty
Two pilots of the IndiGo flight carrying Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and four others from Air India and SpiceJet who had reported “low fuel” while hovering in Kolkata skies last week, have been taken off duty following a probe into the issue by aviation regulator DGCA.
The regulator had ordered an inquiry to find out how three flights at the same time could fly low on fuel into Kolkata when the norms mandate them to carry enough fuel to enable hovering for 30-40 minutes as well as to carry it to the nearest diversion airport, which in this case was Bhubaneshwar.
A row had erupted over the IndiGo flight carrying Banerjee following Trinamool Congress’ allegations that the aircraft was not accorded priority in landing despite fuel shortage.
A senior DGCA official said the six pilots have been taken off duty for “one week” while the air traffic controller, who handled these flights have been told to undergo “corrective training”. The official said the probe into the issue was still going on.
Earlier in the day, an IndiGo spokesperson has said that two of its pilots who had operated its Delhi-Kolkata flight, which had the West Bengal Chief Minister onboard along with other passengers, have been taken off duty pending investigation.
TMC vice-president Mukul Roy had alleged that a conspiracy was hatched to eliminate Banerjee and dashed off a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, demanding a thorough inquiry by his ministry to unearth the truth. IndiGo on its part had said that its flight carrying the Trinamool Congress supremo was delayed due to congestion over Kolkata before making a normal landing and had adequate fuel.
In a statement, IndiGo had said the flight 6E 342 with 174 passengers on board made a “normal landing” at Kolkata airport and that its captain did not declare a fuel priority or an emergency, though there was some misunderstanding between the Air Traffic Controller and the pilot.
TMC had raised the issue in both Houses of Parliament alleging that Banerjee s flight was made to hover over Kolkata airport for about half an hour despite the pilot reporting that the plane was low on fuel.
The government had vehemently denied any design, saying just when West Bengal Chief Minister’s Patna-Kolkata Indigo flight reported low on fuel, two other flights of Air India and SpiceJet also called in with the same problem.
Banerjee’s flight hovered over Kolkata airport for only 13 minutes and it was ensured that the aircraft landed in a safe and orderly manner, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were informed.