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‘Hijack’ source: pilot remark to crew

The security scare caused on Sunday by the “unruly behaviour” of a passenger on board an Indigo Airlines flight from Goa to Delhi was triggered by an unintended reference to ‘hijack’ from the pilot.

Written by Geeta Gupta | New Delhi |
February 4, 2009 12:06:26 am

ATC picked up the unintended reference,alerted security

The security scare caused on Sunday by the “unruly behaviour” of a passenger on board an Indigo Airlines flight from Goa to Delhi was triggered by an unintended reference to ‘hijack’ from the pilot. It was meant for one of the airhostesses inside the cockpit but that got relayed to the Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

And thereby began the “hijack” scare at the IGI Airport,the transcript of the pilot’s communication with ATC reveals.

Only minutes before,Captain Amit Singh,pilot of the Indigo flight number 334,had asked the ATC to put him on ‘discreet frequency’,thus enabling ATC officials to hear conversations inside the cockpit. Singh had informed ATC that there was an unruly passenger on board and that the aircraft needed “priority landing”,the transcript reveals.

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But while trying to calm down his crew,Singh apparently used the word “hijack”. “There is nothing to panic now. I have informed the ATC it is a hijack,” he purportedly told the airhostess,as the transcript reveals.

Result: the statement raised an alarm in the ATC office,which immediately alerted the entire anti-hijacking security mechanism.

Asked whether he had used the word “hijack”,Captain Singh said: “What can I say now? Let’s wait for the inquiry report.”

“The word ‘hijack’ creates a scare,for no one knows the amount of ammunition being held inside the aircraft,” a senior ATC official told Newsline.

Hearing the word “hijack”,the ATC official on duty asked the pilot whether he needed any other assistance. “Nothing; I would need security assistance on landing,” Captain Singh said in reply,as per the transcript.

The aircraft was immediately granted priority landing and was asked to land on Runway 28. “The plane was soon taken to an isolated bay,a standard procedure followed in case of such an emergency landing,” the ATC official said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has meanwhile initiated a high-level probe into the incident and has asked airport authorities to compile an exact sequence of events. The entire transcript of the pilot’s conversation with the ATC is also reportedly being probed.

“It seems things were blown out of proportion,” a senior DGCA official said on conditions of anonymity.

Captain Singh said: “The inquiry report is expected to be out soon. It was ascertained that a passenger was a threat to the aircraft and other passengers. We just took the best safety and security measures possible.

“Things will become clear once the inquiry report is out.”

Another ATC official,D S Raghavan,told Newsline that there was no let up from the ATC and all routine steps were carried out for dealing with such an emergency. “The ATC extended all possible support to the pilot and followed the standard operating procedures in place,” Raghavan said.

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