Bengal chief minister flight landing row: IndiGo clarifies plane had adequate fuel

New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 01, 2016, 11:59 AM IST
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The IndiGo plane carrying Mamata Banerjee was not allowed to land at Kolkata airport immediately. Photograph:(Facebook)

Amid allegations that its aircraft carrying Mamata Banerjee was made to hover over Kolkata airport putting at risk passengers' safety, IndiGo today said the plane was delayed due to congestion before making a normal landing yesterday and had adequate fuel.

In a detailed statement, IndiGo said the flight 6E 342 with 174 passengers onboard made a "normal landing" at Kolkata airport and that its captain did not declare a fuel priority or an emergency, though there was some misunderstanding between the Air Traffic Controller and the pilot.

A political row has erupted over Banerjee's IndiGo flight from Patna to Kolkata being made to wait despite the fact that the plane was reportedly low on fuel with TMC members raising the issue in Parliament today. The party has demanded a probe to find out if there was any conspiracy against the West Bengal Chief Minister.

IndiGo, in the statement, said the fuel on arrival was more than the minimum diversion fuel and there has been no violation of regulatory requirements.

"The flight was kept on hold for landing due to air traffic congestion at Kolkata. The pilot operating 6E 342 had advised the ATC that he has eight minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata (destination) before commencing diversion to the planned alternate.

"However, this information was misunderstood by the Air Traffic Controller who assumed that the aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left," it said.

According to IndiGo, the misinterpretation of information by ATC controller, led the ATC to instruct fire engines and ambulances to be stationed at the 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 840 PM (delayed by an hour due to congestion).

"The fuel on arrival was more than the minimum diversion fuel. There has been no violation or breech of any regulatory requirement in the above mentioned scenario," it said.

The government today informed Parliament that aviation regulator DGCA has ordered an inquiry into as many as three flights, including the one carrying Banerjee, reporting low fuel at the same time, after TMC and other opposition parties alleged conspiracy and threat to her life.

TMC raised the issue in both Houses of Parliament, alleging that Banerjee's flight was made to hover over Kolkata airport last evening for about half an hour despite the pilot reporting that the plane was low on fuel.

The government vehemently denied any design saying just when the West Bengal chief minister's Patna-Kolkata IndiGo flight reported low on fuel, two other flights of Air India and SpiceJet also called in with the same problem.

Banerjee's flight hovered over Kolkata airport for only 13 minutes and it was ensured that the aircraft landed in a safe and orderly manner, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were informed by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and MoS Jayant Sinha respectively.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry to find out how three flights at the same time could fly low on fuel into Kolkata when the norms mandate them to carry enough fuel to enable hovering for 30-40 minutes as well as to carry it to the nearest diversion airport, which in this case was Bhubaneshwar, they said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said in Lok Sabha the DGCA report will be tabled in the House.

IndiGo, in its statement, said it has responded to the queries made by the regulator.