Mamata Banerjee flight row: Pilots played ‘naughty’ for early landing, says DGCA official

A row had erupted after the TMC alleged that the IndiGo aircraft carrying its chief Banerjee was not accorded priority in landing despite fuel shortage.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Updated: December 8, 2016 7:11 pm
mamata banerjee, mamata banerjee flight, indigo flight, indigo flight low fuel, mamata flight, trinamool congress, trinamool congress flight, india news West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI File Photo)

Cockpit crew of the three aircraft reporting short on fuel over Kolkata recently was “crying wolf” and played “naughty” to seek early landing to show good on-time performance, a top DGCA official said today and justified the action of de-rostering them. All the three aircraft had, in fact, “enough” fuel and the pilots wanted “early” landing to show “good on-time performance”, the official said, requesting anonymity. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered an inquiry to find out how three flights, including the IndiGo aircraft which had West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee onboard along with other passengers, could fly low on fuel into Kolkata at the same time.

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Subsequently, it directed the three airlines — IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet — to take off duty the entire cockpit crew of the three aircraft.

A row had erupted after the Trinamool Congress alleged that the IndiGo aircraft carrying its chief Banerjee was not accorded priority in landing despite fuel shortage.

“All three aircraft had enough fuel, enough not only for holding pattern but also to land twice at the diversionary airport, which in this case was Bhubaneswar. In the landing sequence, Air India was on sixth position while IndiGo flight was on eighth slot. SpiceJet aircraft was on the last position of the three.

“However, despite, this IndiGo pilot sought early landing from the ATC saying it was short on fuel. Before giving it clearance, the ATC asked Air India pilot since it was ahead in slot, but he also reported low on fuel. Just then, SpiceJet pilot also jumped in and reported short fuel. But none of them sought priority landing as that would have put them under scrutiny,” the official said.

“These pilots actually played naughty. It was like cry wolf,” he said.

Norms mandate an aircraft 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.

As a fallout of the entire row, all the six pilots were taken off duty for one week while the air traffic controller, who handled these flights was directed to undergo “corrective training”. “The ATC was instructed to undergo corrective training as he should have taken a decision on his own,” the official said.

IndiGo on its part had said that its November 30 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 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 ATC and the pilot.

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