Monday, October 19, 2009

Second airspace violation by US; Indian authorities worried

A US military plane was grounded on Sunday after it violated Indian airspace. The plane with 200 marines was on its way from the UAE to Bangkok.

It was flying over Mumbai when it was noticed that the plane didn't have the required permission. It was later allowed to leave, but the crew are spending the night in Mumbai to get some rest.

This is the second such incident of a US aircraft flying over Indian airspace without permission, and comes a day before India and the US begin joint air exercises - by some coincidence, the exercise is aimed at improving coordination between military planes.

The North-American Airline Boeing 767 didn't have clearance from the Indian Air Force, a must for any foreign military aircraft in Indian airspace. The aircraft took off from Fujairah and was heading towards Bangkok.

Over Indian Air Space it identified itself as Reach-81, an identification or call sign, reserved only for US and NATO military flights. That's when Mumbai ATC noticed the plane wasn't cleared as a military flight and forced it to land.

Hours after the US Marines were grounded, the US Consulate told NDTV they were in touch with officials to resolve the issue, which they described as a routine matter.

"We are in touch with relevant officials to resolve the issue, which is a routine matter. We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Indian authorities. The crew and passengers will stay the night in Mumbai due to crew rest requirement," said the consulate.

In June 2009, the US had committed a similar lapse at the same airport, failing take the IAF's permission. A chartered aircraft was carrying American military cargo to Kandahar in Afghanistan from Diego Garcia island, south of Kanyakumari.

On Sunday, the US military plane got clearance to fly out within hours, perhaps because on Monday, the two countries begin a joint exercise in Agra, ironically, to improve coordination between military planes!

Indian authorities are worried that US military is repeatedly ignoring the mandatory procedures required for international air traffic. The incident is likely to be taken up at the highest quarters so as to avoid a repetition.

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