A Juhu-bound private helicopter pilot, who made an unscheduled landing along the Ratnagiri coast on Saturday evening sparking a security scare, has been caught. Authorities have now summoned him for questioning.
The incident triggered a security scare because city-bound choppers have been under heightened scrutiny following an intelligence alert last month of an aerial terror strike using helicopters or small planes.
The helicopter owned by Global Vectra Helicorp Limited (GVHL), a Juhu-based private charter company, was carrying four people from a film shoot in Belgaum and had a movie camera mounted atop it for aerial shots.
At 4:30pm, the chopper landed on a beach in Ratnagiri because the film crew wanted to remove the camera to protect it from the rain, a statement released by the company on Sunday said.
The helicopter took off within seven minutes of landing. The incident came to light after eyewitnesses reported the incident to the local police.
Sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said captain DS Nayyar, the pilot of the chopper, would be suspended pending an inquiry for making an unscheduled landing and concealing the information from the Mumbai air traffic control (ATC).
ATC sources said Nayyar initially denied making the landing. But when the Indian Air Force's Movement Liaison Unit (MLU) confronted him with evidence he reportedly said bad weather had forced him to land. "A villager had taken a photograph of the landing which is crucial evidence of the safety lapse," said an ATC official, requesting anonymity.
The Global Vectra spokesperson, however, claimed the chopper crew reported the precautionary landing soon after reaching Juhu on Saturday. "The chopper landed at the Ratnagiri beach because of rain and poor visibility. After landing, the camera on the chopper's nose was removed to avoid damage in the rain," said Benedicte Meyssan, senior vice president, press and public relations with GVHL.
Pradeep Raskar, superintendent of police, Ratnagiri said the pilot and other company officials have been called for questioning on Monday.
The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), too, has commenced an inquiry into the incident. ATS chief, additional director general of police (ADGP), Rakesh Maria, told HT, "The pilot and the other occupants of the chopper are being questioned."