New Delhi: A Turkish Airlines flight flying from Bangkok to Istanbul, which had made emergency landing at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Tuesday afternoon following a bomb scare, was in the evening cleared to take-off after nothing suspicious was found on the plane.
Addressing a press conference, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey informed that the bomb threat turned out to be hoax as no explosive was found on the plane.
Choubey further said that the Turkish Airlines flight TK0065 has been cleared for take-off. The flight took-off for Istanbul a few hours later.
"Nothing was found... The aircraft has been cleared for take off," he told reporters.
“144 passengers and 13 crew members were offloaded. The Turkish aircraft was searched. Nothing suspicious was found,” the Aviation Secretary added.
While the Aviation Secretary put the number of passengers at 144, a Turkish Airlines official said there were 134 passengers onboard apart from the crew.
Previous reports had said that there were 148 passengers on the plane.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said, “This Turkish airline was overflying India on its way from Bangkok to Istanbul. The crew noticed something scribbled on mirror. They wanted an emergency landing and it was done,” the minister said.
Turkish Airlines senior vice president (Media Relations) Ali Gence had earlier said that flight TK0065 from Bangkok to Istanbul was diverted to Delhi "following a possible bomb threat on board" and "successfully landed" there. All passengers and cabin crew were evacuated safely.
Reports said the Delhi Police will register an FIR in connection with the incident.
What happened on the Turkish Airlines flight
Turkish Airlines flight TK0065 with 134 passengers (as per the airline) and crew onboard was overflying through Indian airspace near Nagpur when the crew saw a message on the toilet mirror that read 'bomb in cargo hold'.
The pilot was informed and he immediately got in touch with the Nagpur Air Traffic Control. The Nagpur ATC guided the pilots to the Delhi ATC, probably because the airport at the national capital was better prepared to deal with such emergencies.
As soon as the message was flashed at the Delhi airport, the entire security apparatus was put on high alert even as the Delhi ATC gave the Turkish Airlines' Airbus A-330, bearing registration number TC-JNI, permission to land on a priority basis.
When it landed in Delhi at 1.34 pm, the plane was taken to an isolation bay near the Dwarka end of the airport and the passengers were off-loaded as was their luggage, which were subjected to security checks.
The aircraft was checked for explosives by CISF and Bomb Disposal Squads. Commandos of the elite National Security Guard with their dog squads were kept on stand by.
As the security personnel scanned the aircraft for bomb, CISF Director General Surender Singh also briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the situation.
Who wrote the message?
Reports said that the message on the toilet mirror was written using a lip-balm. And, given the real possibility that the person who wrote the message was among the passengers or crew, Indian sleuths questioned everyone.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has, meanwhile, sought details of the passengers on board the flight from Turkish Airlines authorities to ascertain whether the prank was played by one of them.
"We are also interrogating passengers to find out whether someone has done some mischievous activity. We are in touch with the Turkish Airlines to get the details of the passengers," MoS for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said during the day.
Sources, however, said that the lip-balm used for writing the threat message was found during the search.
The Turkish Airlines flight had departed from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok at 10.20 am local time and was scheduled to land at Istanbul at 5.15 pm Turkish time.
Playback data on air traffic tracker website flightradar.com suggested that the plane deviated from the flight path and entered the airspace over mainland India; first over Odisha and then took a zig-zag path over Madhya Pradesh before heading towards Delhi.