Intruder US-chartered aircraft allowed to leave Mumbai (Second Lead)June 20th, 2009 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS
Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) The intruder US-chartered Russian-make aircraft, AN-124-100, which was ordered to land in Mumbai late Friday after it violated Indian air space, was cleared by the intelligence and security agencies and given the green signal to leave Saturday night, airport sources said.
The aircraft is expected to take off around 10 p.m. Saturday, according to the sources.
The takeoff timing was rescheduled due to some “unexplainable reasons” after the aircraft was to proceed on its journey around 4.30 p.m, the sources said.
On a flight from Diego Garcia, a US military base in the Indian Ocean, to Kandahar in Afghanistan, the aircraft chartered by the US Air Force had strayed into Indian airspace over Gujarat.
The civil cargo carrier was directed by the Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) to change path and land at the airport here, which it complied with.
Top civilian, intelligence and security agencies questioned the six crew-members of the aircraft.
However, the details of the outcome of the probe were kept under wraps. There is no indication whether the airspace violation was a genuine error on the part of the pilot or otherwise.
Since landing Friday night around 10.45 p.m., the aircraft was stationed in the parking bay of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) amid high security.
It was provided all necessary ground services and reported to be carrying a cargo of military trucks and some arms and ammunition, though no official was willing to confirm.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) detected the violation when the alien aircraft was seen flying over north-west Gujarat skies without appropriate clearances.
The Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the IAF ordered it to divert to Mumbai and land here while the security set-up was put in high gear.
“Since the aircraft obeyed the ATC instructions and changed its path, there was no need for the IAF to be directly involved in the matter. Contrary to speculation, the IAF did not provide any escort to the aircraft which landed in Mumbai,” a defence ministry official told IANS.