A smooth two-hour flight ended in a scary panic-drama for 159 passengers aboard a Mumbai-bound Indigo flight on Thursday morning.
Around 11.30 am, Sanjay Malik, an economy-class passenger seated at the end of the aircraft 6E 181, which took off from Delhi, told the cabin crew that there is a bomb inside the apple juice can in his hand.
“There is a bomb in the plane. Divert the flight to Pakistan,” Malik told the crew.
It proved to be a hoax call. The plane landed at the Mumbai airport 15 minutes later. Armed guards took Malik in custody at the tarmac and handed him over to the police.
The flight was a few nautical miles north of the city when the 28-year-old Delhi resident asked the crew to divert the plane to Pakistan.
“He was looking for an opening to throw the can,” said an airline official.
The crew acted fast and reported the matter to the airline’s control base in Gurgaon.
“We have a software called ACARS that enables us to keep track of all the flights on air or ground across the country,” said Aditya Ghosh, president, Indigo.
“There are four level of emergency. This was level 1 and the crew acted accordingly,” added Ghosh.
Malik was dragged to his seat. As per normal procedures the crew cautioned him about the consequences of his action.
A quick response team of the Central Industrial Security Force was waiting at the tarmac when the flight landed. Malik was handed him over to the airport police station.
“Interrogation is on. It appears that Malik is mentally disturbed after he suffered had a head injury last month,” said Nitin Indurkar, senior inspector, Airport police station.
Malik was travelling alone.
“It reminded me of the hijack scare in the Goa-Delhi Indigo flight in February,” said a passenger who refused to identity himself.
A drunken passenger had threatened to hijack the flight that had to be vacated by National Security Guard commandos.
Following the hijack scare in February, the Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security had directed airlines to reserve seats for sky marshals.
“Sky marshals travel in flights, but we are not allowed reveal if they were present on a particular flight,” said Ghosh.