News from Politics
Sushma Swaraj was missing for nearly 15 minutes
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was missing for nearly 15 minutes, according to the latest reports.
A VIP Embraer aircraft carrying external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to Mauritius, on her way to South Africa, had gone incommunicado for 14 minutes, triggering a scare after the Air Traffic Control (ATC) of the island nation pressed the panic button, an official statement said on Sunday.
The flight had left for Mauritius from Thiruvananthapuram at 2.08 PM. The Male ATC had established contact with the flight at 4.44 PM IST after it entered the airspace of the Maldives from the Indian airspace.
The IFC 31 could not contact the Mauritius ATC after entering the Mauritian airspace, causing panic. However, there was a sigh of relief when the aircraft came in contact with the ATC there at 4.58 pm, the AAI said.
Since the Embraer-135 aircraft, carrying the minister, does not have a long range, it had stopovers at Thiruvananthapuram and Mauritius for refuelling.
Government sources said the crew of the flight followed the laid down procedure to deal with the situation.
READ ALSO: Union Minister Sushma Swaraj apologises after mistakenly referring PM Modi’s statement
Typically, as per guidelines laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization, there are three emergency phases when an aircraft loses radio contact with ATC — the uncertainty phase (identified by the code word INCERFA), the alert phase (identified by the code word ALERFA) and the distress phase (identified by the code word DETRESFA). These phases are initiated depending on the duration for which an aircraft has been out of contact.
The INCERFA phase is initiated when a flight is out of contact for 10 minutes. However, when it is in oceanic airspace, the ATC waits for up to 30 minutes to declare the safety of the aircraft and its occupants uncertain. The ATC at Male initiated the INCERFA after 12 minutes of not being able to establish contact with the aircraft carrying Swaraj. “Mauritius ATC activated INCERFA (uncertainty phase) without allowing the stipulated time period of 30 minutes to lapse from the time when aircraft last contacted ATC. This was perhaps done because the flight was carrying (a) VIP,” the AAI statement said.
Officials pointed out that it isn’t highly abnormal for aircraft flying over large water bodies to lose contact with ATC for short durations given the lack of radar coverage in certain sections but the Mauritius ATC would have reacted as there was a VVIP on board.
Swaraj on Sunday arrived in South Africa on a five-day visit.