BHUBANESWAR: Puri Police on Monday seized the chopper flown by former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Jay Panda on charges of violating flight rules and entering the “no flying eco-sensitive zone” of Chilika lagoon on September 15. The action was taken on the basis of a complaint lodged by Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Chilika Development Authority (CDA) Binod Acharya with the Marine Police Station at Arakhakuda in the district seeking investigation into the matter and taking action against the pilot and passengers.
The forest official had alleged that a low-flying white helicopter hovered over Arakhakuda within the restricted area of the lagoon and attempted to land there at around 1.30 pm on Saturday. The flight of the helicopter at a dangerously low height with loud sound created panic among the people of the village as also the tourists and local fisherfolk. Such unauthorised flying over the highly sensitive zone not only endangers life and property of the people but also has a serious impact on the marine life and ecology of the Chilika lake, he added.
Puri SP Sarthak Sarangi said the AAI was requested to provide the flight details of Panda’s helicopter including the flight path altitude and passengers. “We have been informed that permission was sought for flying from Bhubaneswar to Garadapur in Kendrapara district via Rajhans-Puri-Konark. The DGCA has also been requested for verification of the flight details over violation of rules,” he said.
Panda refuted all the allegations and stated that he had flown a helicopter on Saturday but at a totally different time. “The ATC records will show that I flew from 8.45 am over Rajhans-Puri-Konark & landed at Kendrapada at 10.28 am. I flew from Kendrapada at 12.50 pm, landing at Bhubaneswar 1.30 pm,” Panda tweeted.
‘Today a State Govt official filed an FIR, citing media reports (saying a Seaplane landed in Chilika at 1.30 pm) but changing description to “helicopter”. FIR still says Chilika landing at 1.30 pm, when I’d landed in Bhubaneswar,” he hit back in a series of tweets.
While police have registered a case under Sections 277/278/336/431 of IPC and Section 11 of Aircraft Act 1934, the Biju Patnaik International Airport Director Suresh Hota stated that the hangar and chopper belonging to IMFA Ltd has been sealed by police. The police have also sought black box data to ascertain flight profile and whether it had landed in Chilika or flew very low over sanctuary.
A report on movement details of Panda’s chopper furnished by the BPIA Director stated that it was verbally confirmed from the flight dispatcher that they have not landed at Chilika. It said the chopper’s filled altitude was 500 ft above ground level.