Panic as pi­lot on flight to Kan­da­har ‘mis­tak­enly’ is­sues hi­jack alert

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - REGION - An­vit Sri­vas­tava

NEW DELHI: Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials at Delhi air­port were pan­icked on Satur­day af­ter the pi­lot of a Kan­da­har-bound flight parked on the tar­mac is­sued a “hi­jack alert” to Air Traf­fic Con­trollers (ATC). The pi­lot later told of­fi­cials he had pushed the air­craft’s panic but­ton “by mis­take”.

Fol­low­ing the alert, se­cu­rity agen­cies said they towed the air­craft to a se­cluded bay and scanned it again. The flight, which had 123 pas­sen­gers on board, took off for Afghanistan af­ter a de­lay of over 90 min­utes once it was es­tab­lished there was no threat.

A se­nior of­fi­cer de­ployed at the Indira Gandhi In­ter­na­tional (IGI) air­port con­firmed that a “transpon­der code”, a silent alert which en­ables pi­lots to alert the ATC in case of a hi­jack sit­u­a­tion, was re­ceived around 3.30pm.

“At the time of the alert, the air­craft was parked at the apron. The mo­ment the alert was gen­er­ated, our ground radars high­lighted Ari­ana Afghan flight FG 312. The team then con­veyed the alert to the Cen­tral In­dus­trial Se­cu­rity Force (CISF), which guards the air­port, and to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Guards (NSG) and the Delhi Po­lice. How­ever, be­fore any ac­tion could take place on the ground, the pi­lot in­formed the ATC that the alert had been is­sued by mis­take,” the of­fi­cer, who is not au­tho­rised to speak to me­dia, said.

Con­firm­ing the in­ci­dent, deputy com­mis­sioner of po­lice (IGI air­port) San­jay Bha­tia said that their anti-ter­ror teams had been put on alert. “Ba­sic ar­range­ments were made ac­cord­ing to the stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, but the pi­lot of the air­craft called back the emer­gency. How­ever, taking nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions, the flight was held back and all the pas­sen­gers were frisked again. The lug­gage was pulled out and scanned all over again. The flight, orig­i­nally sched­uled to take off at 3.30pm, fi­nally took off by 5.09pm with all 123 pas­sen­gers on board,” Bha­tia said.

An of­fi­cer from Delhi’s ATC said that every air­craft has codes for emer­gen­cies like hi­jack­ings, com­mu­ni­ca­tion (ra­dio) fail­ures and other sit­u­a­tions. “The mo­ment the transpon­der re­leases any of th­ese codes, the radar high­lights that par­tic­u­lar plane and ground con­trollers are silently alerted,” the of­fi­cer added, re­quest­ing anonymity.

The in­ci­dent was also re­ported to the In­tel­li­gence Bureau and other con­cerned agen­cies, of­fi­cials said. A se­nior of­fi­cer, who did not wished to be named, said the Direc­torate of Civil Avi­a­tion had con­veyed the mat­ter to the con­cerned depart­ment in Afghanistan to look into.

Emails sent to Ari­ana Afghan Air­lines on the mat­ter re­mained unan­swered till late Satur­day.

AFP

The air­craft was parked at the apron, when the pi­lot is­sued a “transpon­der code” by mis­take. (Rep­re­sen­ta­tional photo)

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