Was the hijack drama, which played out at the Delhi airport on Sunday evening, avoidable? Experts told HT on Monday that the situation could have been handled ‘differently’.
“We have the taped conversation of the pilot with the air traffic control (ATC) and also the cockpit recordings. Preliminary investigation reveals that the situation could have been handled differently and a hijack alert might not have been required. The passenger was unruly but not armed,” said a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official on condition of anonymity.
Was accused drunk?
The pilot of the flight (6E-334) requested the ATC for a priority landing at 5.15 pm on Sunday after some passengers started behaving aggressively and threatened to hijack the plane. It was later reported that the unruly passenger, Jitender Mohla (42), was drunk. Medical tests did not show any alcohol in Mohla’s blood, as he was taken for medical examination eight hours after boarding the flight. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Delhi Police jointly questioned him for three hours on Monday.
Meanwhile, DGCA has constituted a committee to investigate Sunday’s incident. The committee comprises members from DGCA, Intelligence Bureau and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
The pilot, cabin crew and other Indigo officials were called to the DGCA headquarter on Monday to record their statements. According to sources, the crew have been taken off the roster for a few days to help in the probe.
However, Aditya Ghosh, President, Indigo Airlines, claimed, “The crew have not been taken off duty; it was their day off.” Ghosh insisted the pilot and cabin crew had handled the situation very well after the passenger started behaving in an unruly and abnormal way.
Mohla reportedly bragged that he was a DGCA official on a ‘secret mission’ to assess the crewmembers. He even threatened that he was carrying ‘contaminated needles’, tried to catch hold of a crewmember by the neck and assaulted him. Sources said Mohla bragged he was involved in the 1999 hijacking of the IC 814 flight to Kandahar and had already “put many people to sleep”.
The airhostess who lodged a police complaint said Mohla repeatedly changed his seats, went near the cockpit and even slept in the aisle once.
“I tried to convince and calm him and he misbehaved with the other passengers as well. He also claimed his other associates were inside the plane and they could easily hijack it,” said the airhostess in her complaint.
She was too shocked to speak about the incident and sources said she was planning to leave her job.
Mohla was produced before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Rajesh Kumar Goel on Monday. He was sent to judicial custody for 10 days.
The police have registered a case under ‘suppression of unlawful acts against safety of civil aviation, sections 336 and 506.
(With inputs from Sumit Saxena)