Rahul's turbulent flight: Charter industry opposes police complaint against pilot and operators

India’s business jet industry is up in arms over the Karnataka Police lodging an FIR against the pilot and cockpit crew of the charter aircraft that developed snags while carrying Congress president Rahul Gandhi from Delhi to Hubli in northern Karnataka last Thursday.

The Business Aircraft Operators Association in a statement issued on Monday said that any attempt to use such incidents for political purpose is totally uncalled for as it could "adversely affect" the safety of overall operations of charter planes.
The Congress party had filed a police complaint in Karnataka, alleging that the snags “were unexplained” as the weather was clear and hinted at an attempt to tamper with the aircraft.

This had prompted the civil aviation ministry to direct aviation regulator DGCA to conduct a probe. Speaking about the incident, Gandhi had said at a rally in Delhi on Sunday, “Two-three days ago, we were going to Karnataka in a plane. The plane nosedived, falling 8,000 feet. I thought gaadi gayi (it's over).”

"BAOA feels deeply concerned that in one of the recent incidents involving a chartered flight for a senior political leader operated by one of our members Ligare Aviation, an FIR was lodged with the police against the operator and the pilots for criminal negligence," the statement said without naming the Congress president.

As per initial reports, the aircraft developed a technical snag in mid-air and the pilots landed the aircraft safely as per the standard operating procedure (SOP), after duly assessing the situation, it added.

Ligare Aviation in its report to the DGCA had attributed the incident to a snag in auto pilot mode, saying that the pilot shifted to the manual (mode) and landed (the aircraft) safely, a senior official had said last week.

The association said all such incidents are mandatorily investigated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is the only authorised agency to determine the causes for the incident and fix responsibility.

"Any attempt to use such incidents for political purpose is totally uncalled for, as it would result in avoidable stress on pilots involved in such VIP flights and adversely affect the flight safety environment of general and business aviation industry.

"We strongly urge all political parties to facilitate us maintain the highest level of flight safety standards in all charter flights," it added.

Alleging "intentional tampering" with aircraft, the Congress party had demanded a probe into the "suspicious and faulty performance" of the 10-seater Falcon 2000. The DGCA has already launched its probe into the incident, which is being investigated by a two-member committee.

Monday, 30 April, 2018
The Times of India