Ending a 12-hour long ordeal, 122 passengers and six crew members of an Air India flight landed safely in New Delhi on Monday evening. The aircraft, flying from Abu Dhabi to New Delhi, had developed a snag and made an emergency landing in the hostile Sindh province of Pakistan in the early hours of Monday.
According to Air India, AI 940, while flying over Pakistan flight, encountered a technical snag warning in the hydraulic system. The pilot then decided to land at Nawabshah airport in the Sindh province. “The aircraft made a safe landing at 0415 hours (IST) on Monday. The flight had 122 passengers on board and six crew members. All passengers were taken care of while the aircraft was on ground,” an AI press release said.
A relief flight was dispatched to bring back the passengers, along with engineering personnel and material. The relief aircraft returned with the stranded passengers at 5pm, the AI release said.
The captain of the Airbus-319 contacted Pakistani authorities and sought permission for an emergency landing after detecting the problem with the hydraulic system, sources said.
The flight’s emergency landing at an unscheduled airport in the Sindh province was a cause of concern for the Indian security agencies. Considered to be among the most hostile areas in Pakistan, the Sindh province has a heavy presence of anti-India terror outfits.
Immediately after the news of the emergency landing came in, senior officials of AI informed the ministry of external affairs about the development. Sources said foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai called up high commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal. “The Indian High Commission was instrumental in speedy resolution of the situation and getting the required clearances from the Pakistani authorities,” an official source said.
Sources said that the passengers were offered refreshments by the Pakistani authorities and were taken in groups to the airport for rest, before an Indian rescue aircraft with full meals reached there.
Sources in the external affairs ministry said the Pakistan authorities “went out of the way and were very helpful and cooperative in facilitating the emergency landing”. They also helped in speedy clearances to the relief plane and offering transit visa to passengers, the sources added.
Meanwhile, the technical experts who flew to Pakistan said it seemed to be a false alarm and there was no problem with the hydraulic system. “There was nothing wrong with the hydraulic system of the aircraft and, apparently the cockpit panel emitted false alarm making red lights to blip,” AI officials said. “However, even such a technical glitch has to be corrected and that is being done,” they said.
The A-319 aircraft, which was checked by the flight engineers, was also expected to return to Delhi by late Monday evening.