AI hijack drama: Six persons booked

A case was registered against six unidentified persons on Friday in connection with the hijack alarm incident involving an Air India flight.

Updated: Oct 19, 2012, 23:54 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: A case was registered against six unidentified persons on Friday in connection with the hijack alarm incident involving an Air India flight at the international airport here.

Police said the case was registered based on a complaint by the Abu Dhabi-Kochi bound flight pilot Rupali Waghmare, who sent the hijack alert in panic after agitated passengers allegedly stormed the cockpit.

In her complaint, which was sent to the state DGP, the pilot claimed she was threatened, manhandled and restrained from moving out for more than five hours, police said tonight.

The case was registered even as Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy ordered a probe into the incident.

Complaints of passengers against the pilot and also her charges against passengers would be looked into, he said.

Chandy, who had described the incident as a spontaneous reaction, said he has instructed Director General of Police K S Balasubramaniam to investigate the matter.

Around 200 passengers of an Air India Kochi bound flight from Abu Dhabi protested and some allegedly tried to enter the cockpit after the Kochi bound flight was diverted here due to bad visibility.

Six passengers were detained and questioned by Central Industrial Security Force personnel when the plane landed at Kochi after about a nine hour delay and let off.

Meanwhile, aviation regulator DGCA has asked for recordings of the black box of the Air India Express plane after the high drama at Thiruvananthapuram.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked the pilots to appear before it to provide their version of the incident and directed the airline to submit the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) or the black box for an inquest, official sources said.

The regulator also asked Air India Express to take action as per the Aircraft Act against the passengers who entered the cockpit.

Quoting reports reaching the DGCA headquarters, the sources said four persons had entered into the cockpit of Kochi-bound Air India Express flight IX-4422 from Abu Dhabi when the plane was diverted to Thiruvananthapuram due to poor weather at Kochi.

"Several others blocked the galley and got into heated argument with the pilot demanding that they fly the plane to Kochi," a source said.

The airline summoned buses to take the passengers to Kochi but they refused to disembark. The crew could not operate the flight as they exhausted their Flight Duty Time Limitation.

As ruckus prevailed and the passengers entered the cockpit and blocked the galleys, the pilot, Commander Rupali Waghmare, pressed the alarm button sending out a hijack message, setting off a flurry of anti-hijacking activities, including armed police and paramilitary personnel surrounding the aircraft.

When things settled down, the DGCA called off the hijack alert. Once such an alert is issued, it is mandatory that the anti-hijacking procedures initiated are called off. Without this, the aircraft involved cannot be cleared for take-off.

After DGCA gave the clearance, a new set of crew flew the aircraft to Kochi after a delay of several hours, the sources said.

"The DGCA would get the CVR and go through the recording. The regulator has asked the pilots to depose before it," the sources said, adding no pilots have been suspended.

The pilot later lodged a complaint that some passengers had barged into the cockpit and threatened her with dire consequences if she did not take the flight to Kochi.