Was last Friday’s drama at the international airport here all about a ‘ceased’ flight and a hijack that was never attempted?

The fact that the doors of the aircraft remained open during the fiasco meant that the flight had ‘ceased to exist’ and hence a case of attempt to hijack could not be made out, says Jacob K. Philip, editor of Indian Aviation News.

Since there was no flight, there was no case of a hijack either, he told Business Line.

HOW IT IS DEFINED

The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 defines a hijack (chapter II-3) thus: “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, says Philip.

The Act goes on to define an ‘aircraft in flight’: “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.”

WRONG CODE

Rupali Waghmare, the pilot-in-command (PIC) of Air India Express flight 4422 from Abu Dhabi to Kochi, had radioed the air traffic control about a ‘hijack-like situation.’

The Boeing 737-800 had been diverted here because of poor visibility over Kochi.

Having exceeded her flight duty time soon after landing here, the PIC reportedly informed passengers that they would have to travel to Kochi on their own.

The ensuing fracas resulted in the pilot reporting the ‘hijack-like situation,’ though the transponder button she had pressed was 7700 indicating an ‘emergency’.

The air traffic control had no choice but to initiate anti-hijack drill (directive 36.7.2 Operations Manual of AICL (Air India Charters Ltd, Issue 1, 24.04.2012), even though they could see from the tower that the aircraft doors were open.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 24, 2012)
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