A Bangkok-bound chartered US plane carrying American marines among 205 passengers, which was ordered by authorities to land at Mumbai airport for flying over Indian airspace without getting mandatory military clearance, took off on Monday after being grounded for over 33 hours. The aircraft was ordered to land in Mumbai on Sunday after it entered Indian airspace without the permission.
"The necessary regulatory permissions have been worked out," a Mumbai Air Traffic Control official told PTI. The issue relating to payment of navigational charges has also been sorted out, the official said. The ATC had earlier rejected the payment for navigational charges by credit card. The US military chartered Boeing 767 plane, belonging to North American Airlines, was on way from Fujiriah in the United Arab Emirates to Utapao in Bangkok. It landed at Mumbai airport at 0752 hours on Sunday and was parked at a remote bay. The aircraft was made to land in Mumbai while flying over Indian airspace as there was some confusion about its callsign.
The transport aircraft had "civilian clearance from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to fly over Indian airspace," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander T K Singha had said. "However, it was carrying military personnel, for which the aircraft should have obtained Air Operation Routing clearance (AOR), needed for a military aircraft," he said. Foreign military aircraft have to obtain two sets of clearances before flying over India.
Once the aircraft entered Indian air space, the IAF ordered it through radio communication to land in Mumbai, to which it complied with, Singha said. The aircraft did not take off on Sunday as the pilot had crossed his flying duty hours. The US embassy said, "We were pleased that we were able to resolve the procedural matter in an expeditious fashion and appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Indian authorities".
Speaking on the sidelines of the Indo-US exercise in Agra, US air attache to India Colonel Steward Kowal told reporters that the aircraft was made to land in Mumbai due to "misunderstanding with call sign". "We view it as an example of the strength of Indo-US relations. We thank India for resolving the issue quickly," he said.
This is the fourth incident of a foreign aircraft violating rules relating to obtaining of clearance to fly over Indian airspace or other disputes since June this year. On June 20, a Ukrainian-made military cargo aircraft AN-124, operated by a Russian private airline Volga-Dnepr and chartered by US defence forces for flying out military equipment from its base in Diego Garcia island to Kandahar in Afghanistan, was caught in a similar situation. The IAF had ordered it to land in Mumbai as the aircraft did not have AOR clearance. It was detained for 24 hours and was asked to fly out after it obtained necessary clearance.
On August 27 this year, the IAF radar in Punjab had picked up an Air France aircraft (A-343) flying from Paris to Bangkok, as it did not have a proper identity. The IAF scrambled MIG-29 fighter jets to intercept it and it was asked to identify whether it was a friend or a foe.
In the first week of September, a China-bound cargo plane of the United Arab Emirates Air Force was detained and its ten crew members including the pilot were questioned after customs officials found arms and ammunition on board the aircraft. The plane had made a scheduled transit landing at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport, Kolkata. The crew members had not informed in the routine declaration submitted to authorities that arms and ammunition were in the plane.