New Delhi: An Indian Air Force Flight carrying external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to Mauritius went incommunicado for at least 14 minutes on Saturday.
The VVIP aircraft Meghdoot was carrying Swaraj from Trivandrum to Mauritius. The plane landed safely after the Mauritius air traffic control pressed the panic button.
“Indian Air Force Flight IFC31 carrying Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs departed from Trivandrum at 1408 IST for Mauritius. Aircraft changed over from Indian airspace to Male ATC which then established contact with the aircraft at 1644 IST,” a press release issued by the Airport Authority of India said.
Swaraj departed from Trivandrum at 2:08 pm for Mauritius. However, IFC 31 could not contact Mauritius ATC after entering its airspace. A contact was established at 4:44 pm only when the aircraft changed over from Indian airspace to Male ATC. Later at 4:58 pm, the flight came in contact with Mauritius ATC and subsequently made a safe landing.
The Mauritius authorities then sounded the alarm. The Uncertainty phase (INCERFA) is the first of the three emergency phases as per international aviation rules, which signals uncertainty of the safety of an aircraft or its occupants. They did not wait for the stipulated 30 minutes, since a VIP was on board, the Airports Authority said.
The flight made contact and landed 14 minutes later, at 16.58. The authorities, however, did not elaborate on what caused the delay in contacting the Mauritius ATC.
Swaraj is visiting Mauritius on way to South Africa, where she will attend a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Foreign Ministers’ meeting, which will begin tomorrow. She will also chair a meeting of Foreign Ministers of IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), another bloc working to deepen coordination among the three countries on major global issues.