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Archive for October, 2012

Air India Express Flight 4422: No Aviation Rule to Charge Passengers

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Court acquits 2009 Indigo Airlines ‘hijack’ case accused of hijack charges; Conviction only for communicating false information that endangered passengers

By Jacob K Philip

Hijack or no hijack, it is next to impossible to prosecute any of the passengers who were aboard the controversial Air India Express Flight 4422,  on October 19, 2012, on the basis of Aviation rules of the land.

The conviction on Thursday of a Chartered Accountant who three years back had caused a hijack scare aboard an Indigo Airlines flight, makes this all the more evident.

On February 1, 2009, Jitender Kumar Mohla (45) announced aboard the Indigo Airlines flight that was flying from Delhi to Goa that he was hijacking the aircraft.

Though he was accused of trying to hijack the aircraft, Mohla is now convicted not under Anti-Hijacking Act, but section 3(1)(d) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and 336/506/170 of the IPC. He got acquitted of charges under the Anti-Hijacking Act as “nothing incriminating was found in his possession when he was arrested. And there were no evidence on record to show that the accused entered the cockpit”.

Now let us examine again the ‘hijack’ case of Air India Express Abu Dhabi – Kochi Flight which landed at Thiruvananthapuram on October 19 morning after being diverted from Kochi. The passengers got agitated when the Pilot made the announcements that they had to make their own arrangements to reach Kochi and that she was leaving the aircraft because her flight duty time limit was exceeded. The furor that followed ended in the Pilot sending an emergency transponder signal and telling the Control Tower that the situation was ‘Hijack Like”.

It was already made evident that, because the aircraft was not in flight, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 could not be  invoked.

The only remaining act applicable is “The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982”, just as it was for the Mohla case.

Here is what the act has to say about the possible offenses aboard an aircraft:

CHAPTER II, OFFENSES

3. Offense of committing violence on board an aircraft in flight, etc. —

(1) Whoever unlawfully and intentionally —

 (a) commits an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight which is likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft; or

(b) destroys an aircraft in service or causes damage to such aircraft in such a manner as to render it incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(c) places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or to cause damage to it which renders it incapable of flight, or to cause damage to it which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; or

(d) communicates such information which he knows to be false so as to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

 (2) Whoever attempts to commit, or abets the commission of, and offense under subsection (1) shall also be deemed to have committed such offense and shall be punished with the punishment provided for such offense.

Now,  (1) (a) is not applicable because the aircraft was not in flight.

(1) (b) also does not come in to play because no damage was done to the aircraft.

(1) (c) is not relevant as no device that can endanger the aircraft was involved in the incident

(1) (d) also is irrelevant as it deals with an aircraft in flight and no false communication was made by anyone.

The other two offenses listed in the act are the following:

3A. Offense at airport

4. Destruction of, or damage to, air navigation facilities.

3A deals obviously with incidents outside an aircraft and 4 is again not applicable because no navigational facilities were damaged.

That means no aviation safety law is violated by the passengers .

Now it is up to the local Police to invoke or not the sections of Indian Penal Code based on the written complaint of the Pilot-in-Command of the aircraft.

– jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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October 29th, 2012 at 9:31 am

Posted in Safety

Why No One Can Charge the 6 Passengers of Air India Express Flight 4422

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By Jacob K Philip

It now has become more evident that Capt. Rupali Waghmare, the Pilot-In-Command of Air India Express flight 4422 was gravely at fault when she informed the young Controller at duty at Thiruvananthapuram Air Traffic Control in the morning hours of  Friday the 19th that her aircraft was in a hijack like situation.

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Kochi was being diverted to Thiruvananthapuram in the early morning hours because of poor visibility at Kochi. Because the Captain, who had exceeded her flight duty time soon after landing, allegedly told the passengers that they would have to travel to Kochi on their own. The fracas then followed eventually culminated in the Captain telling the ATC over R/T that there was a hijack like situation aboard, though the transponder button She had pressed was  7700 indicator of ‘Emergency’.

The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 (65 OF 1982), clearly indicts the Captain who deliberately told the ATC man that  the situation was hijack like.

This is how the Act defines a Hijack(Chapter II -3):

Whoever on board an aircraft in flight, unlawfully, by force or threat of force or by any other form of intimidation, seizes or exercises control of that aircraft, commits the offence of hijacking of such aircraft.

That means, only an aircraft in flight can be hijacked.

And what is a flight?

See the next paragraph of the Act:

“an aircraft shall be deemed to be in flight at any time from the moment when all its external doors are closed following embarkation until the moment when any such door is opened for disembarkation..”

Now see these news reports:

According to airport officials, some of the aircraft’s passengers also alighted the aircraft and stood around it while waiting for the flight to take off.

 A fracas broke out between the passengers and crew members when the commander, a woman pilot, with 22 years of international flying experience, opened the cockpit’s cabin door to disembark from the aircraft.

So the doors of the plane were opened already for disembarkation.

A ceased flight and a nonexistent hijacking.

So there never was a case against the six passengers the Pilot named in her complaint. And there never was any need for the Police to question them.

And the ATC people also can never be blamed.  Because the Commander of the aircraft had uttered the word hijack while talking with them over R/T, they had absolutely no choice but to initiate all the actions assuming that the aircraft had already been hijacked (Directive 36.7.2 Operations Manual of AICL, Issue 1, 24.04.2012) – even if they had seen from the tower that the doors of the craft already were opened and some passengers had disembarked.

If there still is a case, it ought to be charged against only one person- The PIC of Air India Express flight 4422.

– jacob@indianaviationnews.net

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October 23rd, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Safety

The Hijack That Never Was: Captain Responsible for the Fiasco

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‘H word’ Overruled the Code; Controllers Acted by the Manual

 By Jacob K Philip

It is learnt that  the specific usage of the word “Hijack” by Capt. Rupali Waghmare that triggered all the anti-hijack procedures at Thiruvananthapuram Airport on Friday when the  Abu Dhabi-Kochi Air India Express flight 4422 she had been commanding was parked at the airport.

It also has become evident that the transponder code the Captain used was not the one that indicates a hijack.

Trouble started at 7 am on Friday when the flight landed at the capital city airport after being diverted from Kochi because of poor visibility. The Passengers protested on being told they would have to travel by road to Kochi and went in to agitated arguments with the flight crew. Then Capt. Rupali send an hijack alert to air traffic control, it was reported.

Though the transponder code from the aircraft received by the radar at Thiruvananthapuram control tower was 7700, indicator of (technical) emergency, the young controller was being compelled to initiate the anti-hijack procedures because the captain had spoken to him over the Radio Transmitter that there was a HIJACK LIKE SITUATION on board.

Because the word ‘HIJACK’ had been uttered, the controller had absolutely no choice, but to initiate the process of the post-hijack drill that eventually  did cause so much inconvenience to the passengers of the plane who already had been taxed beyond their endurance.

And the well experienced Captain could never have not known the implications of the word.

The rule 36.7.2 of the Operations Manual (Issue 1, 24.04.2012) of Air India Charters Ltd, a copy of which is with Aviation India, tells thus:

Use of phrase “HIJACK” can also be used when possible and the ground stations will take it to mean “I have been hijacked”, and initiate necessary action and give assistance to aircraft.

Operations Manual, Air India Charters Ltd

From the Operations Manual of Air India Charters Ltd, the Company that owns Air India Express

But then why she did not use the 7500 transponder code indicating “Unlawful Interference” or hijacking?

Only two possibilities could have been  there:

  1. It was just a mistake. She pressed  button 5 instead of 7
  2. It was a deliberate attempt to evade responsibility

If number two was the case, we can see that she has  succeeded to an extent. Only yesterday that Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh vouched for her telling the media people that the pilot sounded only an emergency alert (read  7700).

It is also pointed out that to handle a situation like that, there never were the need to talk to the control tower, switching on the R/T. There were  ample facilities for the pilot whose aircraft was parked at the airport, to communicate with the airline’s staff or with the security personnel. But when the Captain preferred  to talk with the ATC instead, the very character of the whole situation altered dramatically.

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October 21st, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Safety