"Take the aircraft to Houston,” wrote 54-year old Tarun Mohanto on his boarding pass before handing it over to Sanchari, an airhostess on a JetLite flight and staged what was perhaps one of the most bizarre plane hijack drama anywhere in the world.
“Tell him to take the aircraft 60 degree north,” Mohanto reportedly told Sanchari.
The flight with 114 passengers was midway from Jorhat to Kolkata when unarmed Mohanto directed the airhostess to pass on the words to the commander of the flight.
“None is above suspicion these days. We got the information around 3:50 pm. The passenger refused to disembark and the sky marshals on board brought him down,” said R Srinivasan, director of Kolkata airport.
Airport officials refused to treat the incident as a prank or merely that of a crank as Houston indeed lies to 60 degrees north from this location.
Sanchari obeyed Mohanty. In the cockpit captain Sarbesh Gupta kept his cool and asked the airhostess to tell the passenger that his orders would be obeyed.
The flight was then about 45 minutes away from Kolkata.
Gupta informed the Kolkata base and the sky marshals on board. The cabin crew and the marshals kept a vigil on Mohanto, who showed no sign of aggression.
But airport sources said his behaviour was not normal as he changed seats a couple of times. The original seat allotted to him was 10 F.
The flight landed at Kolkata at 4.11 pm.
Passengers were astonished to find armed CISF personnel surrounding the aircraft as they had no clue as to what was happening on board..
Once all passengers had disembarked Mohanto was escorted out of the aircraft. Police sources said that Mohanto initially did not want to come down but once he was on the ground he said he was surprised to find himself in India.
Police said Mohanto appeared to be mentally unstable but whatever he did amounted to a hijack attempt.
The aspiring hijacker was supposed to make an onward journey to Mumbai from Kolkata.