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Tense moments before take-off

Tense moments before take-off


Pushpender Singh Gusain

RECENTLY, a Delhi-Mumbai Vistara flight was delayed for over two hours due to a ‘bomb’ scare. A passenger, during a telephonic conversation with his mother, used the word ‘bomb’ in some context. The passenger sitting next to him overheard it and alerted the crew. The crew informed the security staff and the flight’s take-off was delayed. A search was conducted, but nothing suspicious was found. Thereafter, the plane was allowed to take off and the passengers heaved a sigh of relief. The traveller who mentioned ‘bomb’ was deboarded and handed over to the Delhi Police. The one who raised the alarm booked another flight for Mumbai.

The episode reminded me of an incident during a Delhi-Guwahati flight via Kolkata in September 2006. The journey from Delhi was comfortable except for moderate turbulence that the plane faced due to bad weather before landing at Kolkata. The last phase of the monsoon was making its presence felt. Therefore, a safe landing at Kolkata provided relief. But the respite was temporary as there was more turbulence in store.

The crew instructed Guwahati-bound passengers to remain seated. The travellers destined for Kolkata got off and a few boarded the plane to Guwahati. We awaited take-off as the scheduled departure time approached. But nothing happened for a while, even as the crew did not give us any information about the delay. Enquiries revealed that a Guwahati-bound passenger had disembarked and the crew was looking for him. He only had hand baggage.

After a long wait and a fruitless search, the airline decided to go ahead without the missing passenger. But a co-passenger, who introduced himself as a security consultant, protested and described the incident as a security breach. And he had a point. So, the security staff thoroughly searched the plane. It did not find anything suspicious, but this didn’t satisfy the consultant. Another drill ensued. During the entire process, the passengers were anxious and apprehensive. The flight had already been delayed for more than two hours by this time and my desire to enjoy an aerial view of the Brahmaputra and its valley appeared doomed as dusk was about to set in.

At last, the pilot announced that the airline had taken all the measures required to deal with the situation and there was no reason to panic. Even then, if any passenger was not satisfied, he was free to leave the plane, the pilot added. A hush, along with questioning looks, followed. The security consultant disembarked. The crew members waited for others to follow suit, but in vain. Finally, the journey commenced.

It was pitch dark and only the twinkling of lights could be seen by the time we were over Guwahati. I missed the aerial view of the famous river and its beautiful valley, but was relieved to reach my destination after the tense, suspenseful hours in Kolkata.


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