A plane taking Rahul Gandhi from Delhi to Karnataka on Thursday suddenly dipped, listed to one side and shuddered violently despite clear weather, the Congress has said in a complaint alleging “intentional tampering” of the aircraft and calling for an investigation.
An FIR or First Information Report has been filed against the pilot. The civil aviation regulator says it was a snag in the autopilot mode, which, it asserts, is “not uncommon”.
“It was snag of autopilot mode and pilot shifted to manual mode and landed safely,” said BS Bhullar, who heads the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
“Shutting of autopilot incidents are not uncommon. For any VIP flight, DGCA examines it in detail. We shall do here also,” he added. A detailed report will be out in two weeks.
We have asked DGCA to inquire into lapses, we will be questioning the pilot,” a senior police official told .
The Congress suspects there is more to the incident and this morning, there were a deluge of tweets from party leaders expressing concern.
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 26, 2018
In a letter to the Karnataka police last evening, a party leader described the flight as “particularly frightening and uncommon” and said the entire experience had left the passengers “with a lot of anxiety and distress and positively fearing for their lives”. The crew was petrified, he claimed.
Kaushal Vidyarthee, a key aide accompanying the Congress president, called it the most “frightening experience in my life” and said he admired Mr Gandhi’s composure and calmness “as he stood beside pilots trying to save the situation”.
The aircraft developed “multiple faults” and went into free fall, he wrote in his complaint to the police.
The pilots were able to land the plane at Hubli airport but according to the complaint, only after two attempts.
The “suspicious and faulty performance” raises “serious questions related to intentional tampering with the aircraft cannot also be brushed aside and are required to be addressed and investigated,” Mr Vidyarthee said.
Mr Gandhi’s plane took off from Delhi around 9.20 am for Karnataka, the party-ruled state where he is leading the Congress’s campaign for the May 12 election in the face of an aggressive BJP challenge.
At around 10.45 am, Mr Vidyarthee said, the aircraft suddenly tilted heavily to one side. It lost altitude and there was violent shuddering of the aircraft body though the weather outside was sunny and not windy.
A clanking noise was clearly audible from one side of the plane throughout, his letter said, recalling the 40-minute scare.>