A plane carrying Congress president Rahul Gandhi, his key aide and SPG personnel on Thursday developed an unexplained technical snag causing a free fall of several hundred meters as the jet nosedived. The Congress party was quick to allege a foul play and immediately lodged an FIR with the Hubli Police in Karnataka.
Gandhi was on his way to Hubli from Delhi when after covering around two-thirds of its journey, the plane, Falcon 2000 aircraft, reportedly began to nosedive. The plane suddenly tilted heavily on the left side and the altitude dipped steeply with violent shuddering of the aircraft body at 10.45 AM. Gandhi’s close aide Kaushal Vidyarthi wrote in a letter to state DGP Neelmani N Raju. The letter said the weather was normal and not windy according to the passengers.
It said, “It was apparent from the suspicious and faulty performance of the aircraft that the incidents of shuddering and altitude dipping were not natural or weather-related, but were due to some technical snag…”
Vidyarthee later tweeted, “Glad to be in a room and getting some rest….thankful for being alive…never had such a frightening experience in my life…plane went into free fall…couldnt believe CP’s composure and calmness as he stood beside pilots trying to save the situation.”
Glad to be in a room and getting some rest….thankful for being alive…never had such a frightening experience in my life…plane went into free fall…couldnt believe CP’s composure and calmness as he stood beside pilots trying to save the situation.
— Kaushal K Vidyarthee (@vidyarthee) April 26, 2018
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in New Delhi that it would examine the issue, while the police said they have registered a complaint, reported PTI. Meanwhile, the Congress tweeted the copy of the FIR based on Vidhyarthee’s complaint.
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 26, 2018
“It could have been fatal, RG was lucky”
Experts that Janta Ka Reporter spoke to said that the failure of auto-pilot did not lead to loss of aircraft control. One former Air Force officer, who’s now a pilot with a private airline company said, “It (Failure of auto pilot) does not give significant altitude loss or tilting or even banking. Bank to one side and loss of altitude could have been triggered by rudder malfunction, which would then cause auto-pilot to disconnect.
“In my opinion, two events happened in RG’s flight.1. Un-commanded Rudder Operation.
2. Auto-pilot disconnection. Un-commanded Rudder Movement can lead to Auto pilot disconnection. Reason of Un-commanded Rudder Movement can be a technical issue (Flight Control module and Hydraulics). But it can also result from structural failure of component. Failure could also be natural due to fatigue. Sabotage to cause a component failure needs investigation before ruling this aspect out. Hydraulic Actuators which power Rudder Control Unit can be the most likely failure unit.”
The former AF officer went on to add that ‘a failure like this closer to ground during take off and landing could have been fatal’ stating that ‘RG was lucky’ on this occasion.
India Today reported that the aircraft VT- AVH was a Falcon 2000 which belonged to Religare Aviation limited, registered in Nehru Place, Delhi on 04-02-2011. The Indian Express too reported the same. The manufacturer of Falcon 2000 and 2000 LX is the French company Dassault Aviation, which incidentally also manufactures Rafale fighter jets. After Janta Ka Reporter’s expose on India’s dubious Rafale deal with Dassault, Gandhi has been the only top-ranking Indian politician consistently embarrassing the central government on the alleged impropriety involved in the deal.
DGCA documents show that Religare has seven VT-series aircrafts at its disposal. Three of them, VT-RVL (8-seater), VT-AVH (7-seater) and VT-RGX (14-seater) are operated by Fly Safe Aviation Private Limited of one Sudeep Sharma. While VT-RVL and VT-AVH (pictured above) are of Falcon 2000 series, VT-RGX belongs to Falcon 7X category.
Experts say that if Gandhi indeed succeeds in getting the deal shelved, this could spell disaster for Dassault’s ability to stay alive as a viable aviation company. The expert Janta Ka Reporter spoke to said that the Congress party must press for the custody of the entire maintenance staff of the aircraft that developed an unexplained snag to rule out any possibility of a foul play.
He said, “This is absolutely important to rule out the suspicion of sabotage. The Congress party must find out when the aircraft was last serviced and who were involved in the exercise.”
On the other hand, Janta Ka Reporter‘s resident aviation expert, Captain Khalid Ehsan, said that it was wrong to have named the two pilots in the FIR. Capt Khalid said, “Sabotage is never carried out with people on board. No pilot will be part of a sabotage knowing that they are going to commit suicide. The pilots in this case must be applauded for their bravery.”
Karnataka goes to polls on 12 May while the counting will take place on 15 May. It is one of the few big states, where the Congress still has its government. The BJP is desperately trying to wrest power in this key south Indian state. Several opinion polls have given lead, albeit marginal, to the Congress party.