There were some tense moments at the Joint Control and Analysis Centre (JCAC), which has to initiate action in case of a plane getting hijacked, on Tuesday after a commercial aircraft deviated from its normal flight parameters.
Instead of following its planned flight path from Allahabad to New Delhi, the plane was found moving towards VVIP locations in Lutyen’s Delhi, including Rashtrapati Bhavan and 7 RCR. Delhi has no-fly zones over important areas.
A communications blackout only made matters worse as no one had any clue about what was going on in the plane.
It had lost communication with the Air Traffic Control in Palam, triggering fears that it may have been hijacked, a senior Indian Air Force officer said on Wednesday.
The “rogue” plane had to be stopped. The JCAC, which monitors all aircraft movement, alerted the Gwalior air base about the suspicious Delhi-bound plane at 4.38 pm. Gwalior wasted no time.
By 4.41 pm, the air force had scrambled a Mirage 2000 fighter to intercept the plane.
A Mirage 2000 can fly from Gwalior to Delhi in less than 15 minutes, a former IAF chief said. However, shortly after it had taken off, the “rogue” plane was identified as Alliance Air flight 9062 and the pilot was asked to abort the mission.
“The Gwalior air base launched a Mirage 2000 as per standard operating procedures in case of communications failure. The ATC was unable to establish radio contact with the plane. We don’t take such situations lightly,” the officer said.