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Sushma Swaraj’s plane went incommunicado for 14 minutes on way to Mauritius, authorities hit panic button

Contact could not be established with the Indian Air Force flight that Sushma Swaraj was travelling on after it left Male ATC for Mauritius airspace on Saturday. Authorities pressed that panic button after 14 minutes as the plane was carrying a VIP.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2018 20:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj,Sushma plane missing,Mauritius
Sushma Swaraj was flying from Trivandrum to Mauritius when the plane went ‘missing’(Reuters File)

In a major mid air scare, an Indian Air Force plane carrying External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, went incommunicado for 14 minutes while approaching Mauritius Saturday evening prompting her hosts to press the panic button.

According to sources in the Air Traffic Control (ATC) the pilot and Mauritius ATC could not contact each other and the Mauritian air traffic control declared an alert.

Swaraj was flying from Trivandrum to Mauritius and had passed Male airspace before the plane went ‘missing’ from radars. ATC sources said that over oceanic airspace, the communication is a problem and as per global standard, ATC should wait for 30 minutes before sounding a missing alert.

“Indian Air Force Flight IFC31 carrying Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs departed from Trivandrum at 1408 IST for Mauritius. Aircraft changed over from Indian airspace to Male ATC which then established contact with the aircraft at 1644 IST. However, IFC 31 could not contact Mauritius ATC after entering Mauritius airspace. Mauritius ATC then activated INCERFA (the uncertainty phase),” said a spokesperson for the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

“Later at 1658 IST, IFC 31 came in contact with Mauritius ATC and landed. Mauritius ATC activated INCERFA (uncertainty phase) without allowing the stipulated time period of 30 minutes to lapse from the time when aircraft last contacted ATC. This was perhaps done because the flight was carrying VIP,” the spokesperson added.

Swaraj had a stopover in Mauritius en route to South Africa to attend the foreign ministers meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

During the transit halt in the Indian Ocean island, she met Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and her counterpart Seetanah Lutchmeenaraidoo.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said enhancing the ties between India and Mauritius was the focus of the meeting. “Connecting with our maritime neighbour! EAM @SushmaSwaraj called on the Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth. Enhancing our bilateral relationship was the focus of the meeting,” he said in a tweet.

First Published: Jun 03, 2018 18:40 IST