The Trinamool Congress on Thursday raised in the Rajya Sabha the issue of alleged delayed landing clearance by Kolkata airport’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) to a plane carrying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee despite it being low on fuel.
After TMC MP Derek O’Brien raised the issue, all opposition members, irrespective of party affiliation, supported it.
“The pilot sought landing, saying he was short of fuel. But the flight was put on hold. It was made to hover (over the airport) for a considerable time. There was not only the Chief Minister, but also hundreds of passengers onboard,” O’Brien said as soon as the House met at 11 a.m.
“The question is: Is there more to it than meets the eye? Is it a coincidence? … if a state Chief Minister is under so much pressure, what will happen to normal people,” he wondered.
When Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien asked the TMC member to not level any allegations, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad intervened to say that O’Brien was not making any allegations.
“He is not making any allegations. If this can happen to one Chief Minister, it can happen to others,” Azad said.
Other opposition members, including Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati, Janata Dal United’s Sharad Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Prem Chand Gupta, Communist Party of India-Marxist’s T.K. Rangarajan, Trichuri Shiva of AIADMK and Rajiv Shukla of the Congress demanded a thorough inquiry in the matter and tabling of the report in the house.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said as per the “facts”, all laid down procedures and regulations were followed by the ATC.
“The said aircraft hovered for 13 minutes. As per the regulations, an aircraft must have sufficient fuel for hovering for 30-40 minutes after reaching its destination, or to reach the nearest diversionary airport,” Sinha said.
The Minister assured the upper house that a probe will be conducted and its report tabled.
On Wednesday, an aircraft operated by a private airline with Banerjee on board took off from Patna an hour late at 7.35 p.m.
It reached Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport about an hour later, but it was allegedly not allowed to land immediately. It finally landed around 9 p.m.
Airport officials said such developments were normal and everyday affair in aviation.
But state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim alleged that the ATC delayed the green signal to land despite the fact that the “pilot pointed out it was running out of fuel”.