A small aircraft Tuesday made an emergency landing on National Highway 69 near Betul and took off from the same place a couple of hours later. Amused bystanders and motorists had to wait as traffic was halted to facilitate the early morning landing.
Sam Varma,a businessman who owns the Cessna aircraft,claimed the pilot was left with no other option because the tall light masts erected on the highway made it difficult for him to land the four-seater on the private airstrip located just off the highway.
But the district administration did not buy the explanation and suggested that the emergency landing was an attempt to highlight the businessmans grouse against the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Varma has been complaining about the tall masts since October when they first came up.
The DGCA has started an inquiry into the incident,while the district administration has asked for a detailed report from Varma. Besides the pilot,Jaboc,there was one more passenger in the plane.
Varma,himself a pilot,told The Indian Express that since October,planes have had to take off and land in only one direction to avoid the tall masts,but the high tailwinds on Tuesday made that impossible. He said he had informed the NHAI about restrictions on tall structures near the airstrip,but they did not yield. He said he had filed an FIR against the Nagpur-based NHAI project director for putting lives at risk.
Betul collector Rajesh Mishra said he was waiting for a detailed report from Varma.
Varma said the pilot had taken permission from ATC,Mumbai,before taking off. He said the pilot spoke to him over radio and discussed the possibility of landing in a nearby dam in a bid to avoid casualties on ground. Varma said he suggested the highway and spoke to police authorities who cooperated by stopping traffic.
He (Jacob) was scared and made three attempts before finally landing on the highway, Varma said.
Anurag Modi,a local social activist,suggested that the emergency landing could have been staged.