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AI plane in near miss with Prez chopper
Tribune News Service

IAF orders probe

New Delhi: Questions have been raised as to why the “air space closure” was not enforced as President Pratibha Patil’s chopper was about to land in Mumbai this morning. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force today ordered an inquiry into the incident that almost caused a collision between a helicopter carrying the President’s entourage and an Air India aircraft at the Mumbai airport. The President was following in the chopper right behind the one that was involved in the near-miss.

Mumbai, February 9
An Air India (AI) aircraft flying to Delhi from here today narrowly missed a collision with a helicopter belonging to the Indian Air Force that was part of President Pratibha Patil’s entourage.

According to information available from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aircraft on domestic flight IC 866 to Delhi, with some 170 passengers and 10 crew members on board, was about to take off when it came into close range with three helicopters belonging to the President's convoy.

The aircraft’s pilot applied the emergency brakes and aborted the take off of the aircraft just as the helicopters landed. The captain of the aircraft later told reporters that the helicopters suddenly came into view as he was preparing to take off. The aircraft had been given clearance to take off by the Air Traffic Controller.

The sudden braking caused some damage to the aircraft's tyres, which were changed before the flight left for Delhi. The President’s helicopter was undamaged in the incident and Patil left Mumbai for Gondia as scheduled at 9.30 am.

Meanwhile, the DGCA, in a statement, said it had ordered an inquiry into the incident. “The ATC, Mumbai, was aware of the Presidential visit and were watching the approach movement of the convoy of helicopters. At that time, an aircraft of Air India was on the active runway-27. The ATC, noticing movement of the aircraft on the runway, asked the aircraft to immediately apply breaks and exit through the taxiway. The aircraft exited immediately and the helicopters landed safely,” the statement said.

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