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Sushma Swaraj's Plane Goes Untraceable Over Mauritius for 14 Minutes

The flight eventually landed safely in Male and Ms Swaraj proceeded with her engagements.

Updated:June 3, 2018, 7:16 PM IST
New Delhi: An VIP Embraer aircraft carrying Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to South Africa lost contact over Mauritius space for nearly 14 minutes on Saturday, according to the Airports Authority of India.

“Indian Air Force Flight IFC31 carrying Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, departed from Trivandrum at 1408 IST for Mauritius. Aircraft changed over from Indian airspace to Male ATC, which then established contact with the aircraft at 1644 IST. However, IFC 31 could not contact Mauritius ATC after entering Mauritius airspace... Later at 1658 IST, IFC 31 came in contact with Mauritius ATC and landed,” AAI said in a press statement.

Since the Embraer-135 aircraft, carrying the minister, does not have a long range, it had stopovers at Thiruvananthapuram and Mauritius for refuelling.

The flight had left for Mauritius from Thiruvananthapuram at 2.08 pm. After it left the Indian airspace, it was handed over to the Male ATC which established contact with the flight at 4.44 pm IST.

Soon after it was handed over to the Mauritius ATC, the incident unfolded leading to panic. However, everyone heaved a sigh of relief when the aircraft came in contact with the ATC there at 4.58 pm, the AAI said.

The Indian Air Force plane was traced after the Mauritius Air Traffic Control activated INCERFA, the code word for a situation where uncertainty exists regarding the safety of an aircraft and its occupants.

An official conversant with the ATC issues over the Indian Ocean region told PTI, the problem in contacting the flight could have arisen due to weak radar coverage as flights have to rely on VHF communication, which have their own set of issues.

While such an alert has to be issued only after 30 minutes of losing contact with the ATC, in this case, it was generated earlier perhaps because the plane was carrying a VIP, AAI said.

The External Affairs Ministry and the Minister in question haven't said anything about the said incident as yet.

Swaraj is in South Africa to attend the BRICS and IBSA meets — the two major groups where India has been playing a major role. She will also meet the top leadership of the country.

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