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Probe into 'hijacking' drama on Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi

An investigation is under way to determine what led the pilot of a flight from Abu Dhabi to Kerala to claim the plane was being hijacked.

NEW DELHI // An investigation was under way yesterday to determine what led the pilot of a flight from Abu Dhabi to Kerala to claim the plane being hijacked.

On Friday, an Air India Express flight was diverted from Thiruvananthapuram instead of landing in Kochi. The pilot, Rupali Waghmare, allegedly pressed the alarm button in the cockpit, and threw a note claiming she was under attack out of the cockpit window.

There was no hijacking. Instead passengers angry that the flight had been delayed and then diverted had stormed the cockpit.

The chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, ordered an investigation to look into two sets of complaints, from the pilot and the passengers, Mr Chandy's office said in the statement released on Saturday.

Kerala police, headed by the director general of police, KS Balasubramanian, confirmed an investigation on Saturday was under way based on the pilot's complaint she was threatened by passengers who broke into the cockpit. The pilot also complained she was prevented from leaving the plane.

Of the 146 passengers, six passengers were detained briefly before being released after they landed at Kochi Airport on Friday evening. They will continue to be questioned during the course of the investigation, said KS Vimal, assistant commissioner of police, who is also part of the investigation.

"We have started looking into the matter. This is an ongoing investigation so it will take time," said Mr Vimal. "Those identified will be called upon to answer questions to about who forcibly entered the cockpit."

Ms Waghmare and the crew of the plane are also expected to be questioned as part of the investigation.

A team of officials representing Arun Mishra, the director general of civil aviation's office, also arrived in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday to start their investigation based on a report submitted by airport officials.

The flight was diverted from Kochi due to bad weather and landed in Thiruvananthapuram at 7am, where passengers were told to travel to Kochi, approximately 200km away, by road. Agitated passengers strapped themselves to their seats and refused to leave the plane, after being stranded on the runway for nine hours.

 

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

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