Delayed Action by Pilots Flying Rahul Gandhi Blamed for Mid-air Scare That Lasted 24 Seconds
The DGCA probe report shows the aircraft had developed a snag while it was on auto-pilot mode and the crew had a delayed response as the altitude dipped steeply.
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (Image: PTI)
New Delhi: The extent of Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s mid-air scare ahead of Karnataka polls has been revealed as aviation regulator DGCA made public its report on the incident after more than three months.
The probe report ruled out any conspiracy, as was alleged by the Congress at the time, but accepted that the aircraft’s crew had a delayed response to a steep loss of altitude after the autopilot function developed a snag. It took the pilots 24 seconds to get the chartered plane under control, DGCA said.
On April 26, the 10-seater plane carrying Gandhi had suddenly tilted heavily on the left side and the altitude dipped steeply with violent shuddering of the aircraft body before landing at the Hubli airport in north Karnataka. Besides Gandhi, there were four other passengers, two pilots, one cabin crew and one engineer when the incident took place.
Gandhi was going to attend a rally ahead of the assembly polls in the state. Alleging "intentional tampering" with aircraft, the Congress party had demanded a probe into the "suspicious and faulty performance" of the aircraft.
Congress leader Manish Tiwari said the DGCA report about the “near escape” of Gandhi in the plane malfunction was very disturbing and demanded that the report be vetted by security and aviation experts to ascertain if it was a technical malfunction or something else.
In its 30-page report, the two-member committee set up by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to probe the incident, said there was no prior snag in the Ligare Aviation-operated private Falcon 2000 jet, registered as VT-AVH.
"Crew initiated action only when the master cautions warning i.e after 15 seconds of autopilot disengage," the DGCA said in its report on the four-month-old incident.
Such a warning appears in the form of a red light and audio warning in the cockpit for the pilot to take action and avoid in the split second and avoid any mishap.
The aircraft was finally recovered to straight and level flight 24 seconds after the autopilot got disengaged. In these 24 seconds, the plane had lost 735 feet of altitude.
“From the above it is inferred that the crew actions were slightly delayed to take the corrective actions,” the report said, blaming “lack of institutional awareness of the crew.”
After the incident, the Congress chief had said the plane had suddenly come down by 8,000 feet and he had believed it would be his end. He said that after the narrow escape, he had decided to thank Lord Shiva by undertaking the pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar.
Gandhi's close aide Kaushal Vidyarthi, who was also travelling with him, had filed a complaint with local police besides writing to the Karnataka Director General of Police expressing concern over the series of events.
Following this, civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu had ordered a detailed probe into the incident. Subsequently, the DGCA had set up the panel, with one member each from the safety and airworthiness wings, to investigate the incident.
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