M A I N   N E W S

Punjab CM’s aircraft violates PM’s ‘no-fly zone’
Girja Shankar Kaura and R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 9
The vulnerability to the Prime Minister’s residence and the slackness of the security agencies was revealed once again today when a Punjab Government plane, with state Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on board, flew low over the Race Course Road complex, violating the stipulated “no-fly zone”.

Two other persons flying with the Punjab Chief Minister were later identified as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president H.S. Hanspal and Capt Amarinder Singh’s close aide Gurmeet Rana Sodhi.

Apparently all the passengers of the civilian plane were unaware of the developments. Only after they got off at Safdarjung Airport and were surrounded by the security personnel that they realised that the pilots had violated the air space of the Prime Minister’s residence.

Although the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the security agency (Special Protection Group and the Intelligence Bureau) officials detained the two pilots, who have been identified as C.P. Singh and S.K. Kapoor, of the four-seater C-90 twin engine plane after it landed for questioning, the incident clearly exposed the chinks in the security cover spread around and over the Prime Minister’s residence.

According to reports here, the aircraft flew over the Prime Minister’s residence at about 5 pm. It landed at the Safdarjung Airport at 5.07 pm.

The DGCA officials failed to inform the Indian Air Force (IAF) which primarily would enforce the “no fly zone” over the Prime Minister’s residence. An IAF spokesman here confirmed that the Air Force had not been informed at all about the air space violation over the Prime Minister’s residence.

As per norms, aircraft violating the Indian air space or air corridor over the VIP zone would have been escorted by the IAF fighter aircraft to ensure the force landing of the violating aircraft.

Incidentally, the occupants of the aircraft also had a providential escape as the security agencies around the Prime Minister’s residence, apparently caught off-guard, did not press the anti-aircraft gun buttons.

The four-seater VIP aircraft from Patiala on the other hand also violated rules of landing at the Safdarjung Airport. Due to heightened security the Safdarjung Airport has been declared “out of bounds” for all aircraft including the VIP aircraft.

Due to its close proximity to the PM’s residence, the security agencies had suggested its closing down. However, here it were the security agencies which were found wanting at the crucial juncture.

Security experts here pointed out that this was a serious lapse in the Prime Minister’s security. Although this low down flying over the PM’s was carried out by another VIP aircraft, they pointed to the possibility of it being a terrorist aircraft.

Reports here suggested that the two pilots of the aircraft with the Punjab VIPs on board later claimed that there was a technical snag in the four-seater plane which not only forced them to drop height but also land in the “out of bounds” Safdarjung Airport.

As the twin engine state government plane was spotted on radar, it had the civil aviation officials on its feet.

This is the second time in the recent past that an aircraft has violated the “no fly zone”. Earlier, a cargo plane from Kazakhstan had violated the air space over the Prime Minister’s residence and had been forced to land at the IGI airport by IAF fighter aircraft.

The air corridor above the Prime Minister’s residence had been made out of bound for aircraft following the terror attack on the World Trade Center in the USA.

Mr Gurmeet Rana Sodhi, later told The Tribune, that “we were surprised when the plane was surrounded by security officials.”

“Only from them we learnt that the plane had breached the `no-fly zone’. We do not know why the pilot flew the plane so low near the PM’s residence. Only the pilot can tell that,” he said.

The state legislator thanked his stars as the security officials had not pressed the buttons of the anti-aircraft guns — a normal procedure followed in `no-fly zone’ to ward off any aircraft which after instructions to change course does not heed to the orders.

The plane is likely to be grounded till the legal formalities are completed, sources added. Besides, in case of being found guilty during interrogation by the security agencies the two pilots also face the possibility of their flying licences being revoked.

Till such time, however, the licences of the two pilots would remain suspended.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |