Intruder US-chartered aircraft takes off from Mumbai (Third Lead)

June 21st, 2009 - 12:45 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) The intruder US-chartered Russian-make aircraft AN-124-100 took off from the airport here Saturday night, nearly 24 hours after it was ordered to land following its violation of Indian air space, an official said.
The drama at the the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) that caused security worries lasted 23.59 hours as the flight, VDA 446, took off at 10.40 p.m. but its destination was not disclosed, an airport spokesman 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 late Friday.

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 before they gave the green signal to the cargo plane to leave Mumbai.

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 here Friday at 10.41 p.m., the aircraft was stationed in the parking bay of the CSIA amid high security.

It was provided all necessary ground services. It was 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 northwest Gujarat skies without appropriate clearances.

The Mumbai 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.

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