Cleared by India, but US military plane may leave only Monday

October 18th, 2009 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 18 (IANS) The chartered US military aircraft which was detained for over six hours Sunday and finally cleared to leave around 3 p.m., may only leave Monday owing to certain procedural issues, airport sources revealed.
The aircraft, which was ordered to land by the Indian Air Force (IAF) after a discrepancy in its call sign (identification), was cleared by all the relevant Indian departments and security agencies Sunday afternoon.

However, there arose a dispute over payment of certain charges by the aircraft to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Sunday afternoon, delaying its departure.

When the pilot of the Boeing 767 North American airliner was unable to make immediate arrangements for the cash through its local ground handler, the ATC refused to grant it permission for take-off, the sources said.

The pilot then offered to pay the charges - the amount is not disclosed yet - by credit card, which too the ATC declined.

Since there was already more than four hours’ delay in the expected time of departure, the pilot extended his permissible duty hours. As per international norms, pilots can fly for a certain number of hours only and then they must get a break, the sources explained.

Later Sunday evening, the pilot in consultation with the US embassy in New Delhi and the US Consulate in Mumbai, decided that all the people on board - 205 US Marines and a few crew members would take a night halt in Mumbai.

Accordingly, Sunday evening bookings were made for all those on board at the Hotel Hyatt Regency, near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

The aircraft will depart for its onward journey to Bangkok only sometime Monday, the sources said.

The aircraft is currently parked in the remote bay of the airport, near the Kurla end of the airport since it landed here at 7.52 a.m. while on a flight from Fujairah (UAE) to Bangkok (Thailand).

Officials of the IAF, Central Industrial Security Force and Mumbai customs reached the aircraft and the IAF is questioning the pilot.

The IAF had also coordinated with the US embassy in New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs, the Director General of Civil Aviation and US authorities to sort out the matter.

The flight was carrying the US Marines on a holiday to Bangkok.

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