New Delhi: A technical snag and a 15-minute delay in response by pilots led to a drop in altitude and excessive banking of an aircraft carrying Congress president Rahul Gandhi in April this year, an investigation by air safety watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has found.

The incident, found as “survivable" or not fatal in the probe, took place when the Delhi-Hubli non-scheduled flight that carried Gandhi on 26 April developed a snag and the autopilot got disengaged. That led to the Falcon 2000 aircraft run by New Delhi-based Ligare Aviation Ltd. banking excessively to the right and losing altitude, a report by the DGCA on the incident said.

“After the auto pilot got disengaged, it took 24 seconds for the pilots to control the situation. The aircraft lost 735 feet during this period," the report said about the incident that led to the passengers in the cabin to panic.

With altitude of 40200 feet, pilot brought the bank angle and thereafter flew the aircraft manually and landed at Hubli airport, the report said. The probe did not find any other deviation in the operation of the flight.

Abhishek Singhvi, senior Congress spokesperson said the aircraft was lucky to have avoided an accident. “....Does the report not virtually say that there was a serious possibility of an imminent accident. Good fortune, good luck and God saved it," Singhvi told reporters on Friday evening.

“As the auto pilot tripped, both the crew got busy analyzing the fault and did not realize that the aircraft has gone into a bank with the yaw damper failure. The crew only realized when the bank angle warning came at 45 degree... The crew initiated corrective action to control the aircraft altitude 15 seconds after the auto pilot got disengaged...This delayed actions caused the aircraft to reach high bank angle value and altitude loss which created panic and scare for the passengers in the cabin," said the report.

The watchdog recommended that the aircraft operator’s cockpit crew should undergo corrective training. It also recommended a regulatory audit of the organization to check compliance to regulations. An email sent to Ligare Aviation remained unanswered at the time of publishing.

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