DGCA to probe Mamata Banerjee flight incident, Parliament informed

TMC alleges conspiracy to kill Mamata Banerjee after an IndiGo flight carrying her hovered over Kolkata for over half-an-hour before landing at the airport


A file photo of  West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
A file photo of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

New Delhi: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) alleged a conspiracy to kill party chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee after an IndiGo flight carrying her hovered over Kolkata for over half-an-hour before landing at Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport on Wednesday night.

The IndiGo flight from Patna to Kolkata was short of fuel but was still made to circle the airport for nearly 30 minutes as it waited for clearance to land, West Bengal’s ruling party said. When it touched down, the plane was surrounded by fire engines and ambulances—standard protocol for emergencies. 

“The plane was about to crash...we want to bring to notice that life of Mamata Banerjee is in danger,” said Sudip Bandyopadhyay from Banerjee’s TMC.

“Is there more to this than meets the eye?” Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien said in the Rajya Sabha, “There is a school of thought that this is a conspiracy.”

Union Minister of Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

IndiGo said it was responding to DGCA queries.

The airline said the pilot operating 6E-342 had advised Air Traffic Control that he had eight minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata before commencing diversion to the planned alternative. However, this information was misunderstood by the Air Traffic Controller who assumed that the aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left. The misinterpretation of the information by ATC controller led ATC to instruct fire engines and ambulances to be stationed at Kolkata airport.

“We would like to clarify—IndiGo Captain at no stage declared a fuel priority or an emergency. Subsequently, the airplane made a normal landing at Kolkata airport at 8:40pm (delayed by an hour due to congestion). The fuel on arrival was more than the minimum diversion fuel,” it said in a statement.

There were 280 air safety incidents prompting regulatory action up until August this year, beating the 275 for all of last year, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

At this rate, the number may rise to more than 400 by the end of 2016, making it the worst in three years for aviation safety, according to New Delhi-based DGCA.

The Indian aviation market, which saw air traffic grow 20% last year—double the pace of China’s, according to International Air Transport Association—is struggling to find enough officials to ensure safety of flights. That was one of the reasons the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety rating in 2014, before restoring it a year later following some corrective measures.

PTI contibuted to this story.

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