Six pilots taken off duty in low-fuel controversy kicked up by Mamata Banerjee

DGCA had ordered the inquiry to find out how three Kolkata-bound flights could go low on fuel at the same time when the norms mandate them to carry enough fuel to hover for 30-40 minutes.

Published: 07th December 2016 03:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2016 03:46 PM   |  A+A-


West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (File|PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Two pilots of an IndiGo flight that carried West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, and four other pilots from Air India and SpiceJet who reported that their flights were low on fuel while hovering over Kolkata last week, have been taken off duty following a probe into the issue by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation [DGCA].

The regulator had ordered the inquiry to find out how three Kolkata-bound flights could go low on fuel at the same time when the norms mandate them to carry enough fuel to hover for 30-40 minutes as well as to carry it to the nearest diversion airport, which in this case was Bhubaneshwar.

The Trinamool Congress kicked up a controversy over how a Patna-Kolkata flight carrying their boss Mamata Banerjee was not accorded priority for landing despite being low on fuel. Two other flights, one Air India and another SpiceJet, also reported the same problem at the same time over Kolkata.

A senior DGCA official said the six pilots have been taken off duty for one week while the air traffic controller who handled these flights has been told to undergo "corrective training". The official said the probe was still going on.

An IndiGo spokesperson said two of its pilots who operated the Delhi-Kolkata flight with Mamata Banerjee on board have been taken off duty pending an investigation.

Trinamool Congress vice-president Mukul Roy alleged that a conspiracy was hatched to eliminate Mamata Banerjee and dashed off a letter to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju demanding a thorough inquiry by his ministry to unearth the truth.

IndiGo said its flight carrying the Trinamool Congress supremo had enough fuel but was delayed due to congestion over the Kolkata airport before making a normal landing.

In a statement, IndiGo said flight 6E 342 with 174 passengers on board made a "normal landing" at the 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.

The government had vehemently denied any design behind the incident, saying that just when the chief minister's Indigo flight reported being low on fuel, two other flights of Air India and SpiceJet also called in with the same problem.

Mamata Banerjee's flight hovered over the Kolkata airport for only 13 minutes and it was ensured that the aircraft landed in a safe and orderly manner, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were informed.


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