Mamata Banerjee flight delay: 6 pilots of three airlines grounded

Banerjee's TMC party had turned the issue of fuel shortage and alleged denial of emergency landing into a political controversy.

Mamata Banerjee flight delay: 6 pilots of three airlines grounded

Amid the political drama following Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal's flight delay, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Tuesday suspended six pilots, two each from IndiGo, SpiceJet and Air India.

Reportedly, Banerjee was on board the IndiGo Patna-Kolkata flight and the AI and Spice-Jet planes were ahead of her aircraft in landing sequence. However, DGCA is looking into the case as flights had

reported running low on fuel while landing in Kolkata last Wednesday.

Banerjee's TMC party had turned the issue of fuel shortage and alleged denial of emergency landing into a political controversy.

Times of India quoted its sources as saying that the regulatory action was a 'strict' warning to airlines not to cut corners on fuel, especially in the winter season when visibility keeps getting hit and planes have to divert from their scheduled destinations. "The DGCA has de-rostered (meaning grounded) the pilots and sought their corrective training," said an AI spokesperson told TOI.

SpiceJet also confirmed the move, while IndiGo referred to a statement issued last week saying "pilots operating this flight have been made available for any inquiry by the regulator".

The action has made airlines unhappy, who have clarified that their pilots had reported running low on "hovering fuel" for Kolkata. This meant that fuel level of the Airbus A-320 of Indi-Go and AI and the Boeing 737 of SpiceJet was reaching a point where they would have had to proceed to the alternative airport, Bhubaneswar.
It is to be noted that according to the rules, whenever an aircraft takes off, it has to take fuel adequate for flying, in addition to holding or hovering at the destination for 30 minutes, diverting to an alternative airport if needed and hovering at at the alternative airport for 30 minutes.

"Our flights had adequate fuel. They were running low on hovering fuel for Kolkata. They could have diverted to the alternative airport," a source in one of the airlines told TOI.

The confusion, according to IndiGo, had arisen due to a communication gap between its pilots and the Kolkata air traffic control (ATC).