BENGALURU: The Congress party on Thursday filed a police complaint and demanded a thorough probe after a plane carrying its president Rahul Gandhi developed a technical snag ahead of its landing at the Hubali airport in north Karnataka.
The Congress party, after lodging a formal police complaint, also approached the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and sought a probe into what it termed the "suspicious and faulty performance" of the aircraft before its landing at the Hubali airport.
Reacting to its complaint, the DGCA said that it would examine the issue.
The reported technical snag in the plane carrying Rahul Gandhi was noticed when the aircraft suddenly tilted heavily on the left side and the altitude dipped steeply with violent shuddering of the plane's body around 10.45 am.
Kaushal Vidyarthi, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, alleged this in a letter addressed to state DGP Neelmani N Raju.
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 26, 2018
In his letter, Vidyarthi further stated that the weather was normal and not 'windy' according to the passengers.
"It was apparent from the suspicious and faulty performance of the aircraft that the incidents of shuddering and altitude dipping were not natural or weather-related, but were due to some technical snag...," the letter said.
"Serious questions related to intentional tampering with the aircraft cannot also be brushed aside and are requested to be addressed and investigated," the letter read.
"Yes, we have received a complaint about some unexplained turbulence of the aircraft," Renuka Sukumar, DCP (Law and Order), Hubbali-Dharwad Police was quoted as saying by PTI.
''A complaint under Section 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC has been registered,'' she said.
In its complaint, the Karnataka unit of Congress party also named two pilots for the ''unexplained" technical snag.
Multiple "unexplained" technical snags coupled with the failure of the auto-pilot system raised serious issues of aviation safety and possible and intentional tampering with aircraft which endangered the lives of its occupants, the letter said.
"A thorough examination of the structural and mechanical elements of the aircraft, the surrounding circumstances of the flight and the persons attached with the maintenance of the aircraft is required in order to assess the incident," it said.
The letter said a "clankish noise" was clearly audible from one side of the plane throughout the shuddering of the aircraft body.
"It was learnt that the autopilot of the aircraft was not functioning," it said.
The plane landed at the Hubali airport around 11.25 am in the third attempt, according to Vidyarthi's letter.
"The crew was also apparently petrified and admitted that the flight was particularly frightening and uncommon," it said.
A senior DGCA official said, "The operator has reported the incident to us.''
According to the operator's report, it was a snag of auto-pilot mode and the pilot shifted to the manual (mode) and landed (the aircraft) safely.
"Shutdown of auto-pilot (mode) incidents are not uncommon. For any VIP flight, the DGCA examines it in detail. We shall do that here also," the official said.
However, a senior official at the Hubali airport, later citing the report from the Air Traffic Controller, said that the plane had landed safely.
The Congress president is on a two-day visit to poll-bound Karnataka from today to campaign for the party candidates in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Dahskina Kannada, Kodagu and Mysuru.
(With PTI inputs)