A Kuwait Airways airliner strayed into the no-fly zone over New Delhi on Monday but quickly returned to its course, causing a brief security scare amid an alert at Indian airports over the possible hijack of a US- or Europe-bound plane.
The Kuwaiti Airways aircraft, after taking off from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, headed towards the area where the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — 7, Race Course Road — are located.
But its pilot quickly corrected the course after being alerted by air traffic control.
The incident caused a scare among security agencies as it came on a day when airports across the country were on high alert following a warning on Sunday that a flight to Europe or the US could be hijacked.
"The aircraft was scheduled to turn right after taking off but instead turned left, into the no-fly zone," said an Air Traffic Control official on condition of anonymity.
The aircraft had taken off at 6.15 am.
Security agencies were immediately alerted following the breach and the Special Protection Group (SPG), guarding the Prime Minister's residence at Race Course Road, was prepared.
"It was a simple mistake on the part of the Kuwaiti Airways pilot. We are looking into the matter and we will see what needs to be done," said PK Chattopadhyay, joint director-general of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. "The plane was immediately brought back to course. It has left for its original destination," he said.
"It does seem that there was a misunderstanding and we are going through the tapes to find that out," said a senior DGCA official.
"The pilot was asked to turn right but he took sometime to react. There seems to have been a communication gap but we are yet to figure out why that happened."
According to sources in the DGCA, the Kuwaiti Airways has tendered an apology for the 'inadvertent' mistake. The sources added that an enquiry had been ordered into the matter and a letter sent to the airlines to explain the lapse.
On Sunday, the DGCA had sent an advisory to put all airports in the country on high alert following a warning from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that terrorists could target flights from the country to the United States or Europe.