Monday, October 29, 2012

Air India pilot’s charge baseless: Police

TRIVANDRUM - The investigation by the Kerala police have found the complaint lodged by the pilot of Abu Dhabi-Cochin flight, diverted from Cochin to Trivandrum due to bad weather on October 19, regarding attempt by passengers to hijack the flight baseless.

Rupali Waghmore, the woman pilot, had alleged that six passengers had entered the cockpit and one of them had threatened to kill her if she did not take the flight to Cochin. The passengers had staged protests inside the aircraft after the pilot tried to leave following end of her duty time.

A special investigation team (SIT), led by Shanghumugham assistant commissioner, found that the pilot had not pressed the hijack button. Examination of the communication between the pilot and the Air Traffic Control revealed that she had pressed only the emergency button.

However, she mentioned a hijack-like situation in her oral communication with the Air Traffic Control. They sounded the hijack alarm based on Rupali’s oral communication, the source said.

The police also could not get any evidence about the threat made to life by one of the passengers. Although Air India had claimed that they had audio recordings to prove, the airline has so for not handed them over to the investigation team despite repeated reminders.

The SIT has veered round to the view that the protests by the passengers were natural reaction to the delay in resuming the diverted flight. If Air India does not hand over the evidence the police may close the case.

The Valiyathura police had registered a case under various sections of Indian Penal Code based on the pilot’s complaint. The SIT had summoned the six passengers and questioned them last week. They were also questioned at Cochin by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Safety.

Federal Civil Aviation Minister Ajith Singh had termed the passenger’s action serious. However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy blasted the Air India, saying they had not shown the responsibility to explain the situation properly to the passengers.

The chief minister said that the situation could have been averted if a senior official of the Air India was present at the airport and explained the reasons for the delay.

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