DGCA to probe Mamata Banerjee flight incident, Parliament informed
Aviation regulator DGCA has ordered an inquiry into as many as three flights, including one carrying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reporting low fuel at the same time, as TMC and other opposition parties alleged conspiracy and threat to her life.
TMC raised the issue in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday alleging that Ms. Banerjee’s flight was made to hover over Kolkata airport last evening for about half an hour despite the pilot reporting that the plane was low on fuel.
The government vehmently 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.
Ms. 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 by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and MoS Jayant Sinha respectively.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has 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, they said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said in Lok Sabha the DGCA report will be tabled in the House.
Alleging a threat to the life of Ms. Banerjee, who is at the forefront of anti-demonetisation campaign, TMC leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay said the government should rise to the occasion and find out whethere there was a conspiracy.
Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, said that Ms. Banerjee has been travelling to various parts of the country protesting against government’s move to ban Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes causing hardships to common people.
“Her life is in danger and ATC should have allowed her flight to land first. The VVIP flight should have been allowed to land in priority,” he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said: “It is incorrect to say that the flight was hovering over Kolkata for 30-40 minutes. The flight was hovering for only 13 minutes. The DGCA has ordered an inquiry how all the three flights were flying low fuel.”
He also said that none of these three flights sought priority landing, despite being asked by the ATC.
Meanwhile, IndiGo says the ATC misunderstood pilot’s command. “There was no shortage of fuel,” said a statement from the company.
“While the pilot informed ATC that 8 minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata before commencing diversion, the ATC assumed that aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left,” IndiGo said. The airline the pilot had not declared fuel priority or an emergency at any stage.