The row over who is responsible for the near-miss involving a Presidential chopper and a civilian plane in Mumbai escalated on Wednesday with IAF chief Fali H Major saying his pilots were not to be blamed while the Civil Aviation ministry asserted it would be "premature" to conclude anything without a probe finding.
"It would be premature to comment until the probe is completed on both the sides," Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel said in Mumbai hours after Air Chief Marshal Major strongly defended his pilots saying they had landing clearance.
Patel said the fact is that there have been "some communication gaps and the government was awaiting a DGCA probe." "Now who is responsible, only the probe will let us know."
Patel told PTI he did not know on what basis the Air Chief came to the conclusion about his pilots not being responsible. "Maybe he has better information from his side," he said.
Reacting to media reports that the pilot of the IAF helicopter landed without clearance, the Air chief told reporters in Bangalore that the helicopters were asked to land "in sequence 2, 1 and 3.
"One carrying the President, 2 was security. The three aircraft were specifically cleared by Bombay ATC on runway 27. So when they were cleared, they came and landed."
Major said the three helicopters were flown by some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force who were drafted to ferry the President.