MPs concerned over aircraft hijack threat

February 13th, 2008 - 10:55 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 13 A group of members of parliament has taken a serious view of the terror threat to air passengers in the country, especially in the northeast, after a terrorist last week revealed plans to hijack an aircraft.

While the members from parliament’s consultative committee on the civil aviation ministry Wednesday took a serious view of the threat, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel assured them that security arrangements had been heightened at those airports that are likely to be targets.

A member of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) arrested last week in Guwahati revealed the outfit’s plans to hijack an aircraft.

The arrested man was member of the ‘plane hijacking unit‘, not known till recently. Fifteen of his associates from the specialized unit fled to neighbouring countries soon after he was arrested Sunday, it was reported.

The parliamentary committee also discussed issues pertaining to pilot training and on-time performances and losses of Air India. They wanted to know the status of merger of Air India and Indian Airlines. Other issues related to new airports, connectivity across the country and rules for permitting airlines to fly abroad were also discussed.

On the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, Patel told the committee several working groups and a team have been set up to take the process forward. “A III-tier grievance redressal machinery and an inter-ministerial grievance redressal committee had been put in place to address the employee grievances,” the minister stated.

The fleet augmentation by the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) was also underway, he informed the MPs.

He told the members that of the 111 state-of-the-art aircraft to be added to the Air India fleet, three Boeing 777-200LR, three Boeing 777-300ER, 10 Boeing 737-800, six A319 and five A321 aircraft had already been received. “The remaining aircraft would reach by 2011,” he told the members.

Regarding air traffic, the minister said the domestic airline passenger traffic increased from 32.6 million in 2006 to 43.3 million in 2007. “The growth stands at 32.51 percent. With the base also growing, the aviation sector is registering a higher growth,” Patel said.

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