Sushma Swaraj’s plane gives ATC a scare

In a major scare on Saturday evening, an Indian Air Force aircraft ‘Meghdoot’ flying external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj from Trivandrum to Mauritius, on her way to South Africa, went incommunicado for 14 minutes.

The 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.

The scare happened when Mauritian air traffic control and the crew of the Embraer 135 Legacy flying Swaraj — which was cruising safely — could not establish contact with each other for some time after the plane entered the island nation’s air space.

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.

AAI said the plane took off from Trivandrum, where it had stopped for refuelling, at 2.08 pm for Mauritius. “Aircraft changed over from Indian airspace to Male ATC which then established contact with the aircraft at 4.44 pm IST. However, IFC 31 could not contact Mauritius ATC after entering Mauritius airspace. Mauritius ATC then activated INCERFA (the uncertainty phase). Later at 4.58pm 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 a VIP,” said the AAI in its statement.

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).

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