'IAF not to be blamed for Mumbai near miss'

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Bangalore, Feb 11: Rubbishing the blame that three helicopters of Indian Air Force (IAF) were in not in wrong path, air chief Fali H Major said IAF need not be blamed for the near collision between an IAF helicopter and an Indian Airlines airbus which was about to take off in Mumbai on Monday, Feb 9.

Reacting to media persons blaming the pilot of the helicopter who landed dangerously without clearance from the Air Traffic Control, he said, "Remember that these three helicopters were flown by some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying the President. This should be understood very clearly. They were not aware of the Air India aircraft because it was on the tower frequency. So, there was no contact between the two aircraft."

"The inquiry is on as you know but, from what I know from my facts is that the three helicopters with the President and party on board were coming from INS Gunjali to Santacruz. They were on the approach or radar frequency as instructed by the Santacruz ATC. No aircraft, no helicopter and no pilot can change frequencies unless he is asked to change frequencies by the Air Traffic Control," he added.

"On this very frequency in which they were, they were asked to rejoined and land in the sequence 2, 1 and 3. One carrying the President of India and the others were carrying the security and another party," said the air chief.

Giving clean chit he also said: "The three helicopters were specifically cleared by Mumbai ATC on this frequency to land on runway 27. They were not aware of this Air India aircraft because the AI aircraft was on the tower frequency. There was no contact between the two. The IAF helicopters were cleared so they came and landed. Unless the ATC tells somebody to change the frequency, he or she cannot."

In a major safety breach, a Delhi-bound Air India flight with 170 passengers and 10-member crew narrowly escaped colliding with an IAF helicopter which was part of President Pratibha Patil's fleet, minutes before taking off from Mumbai on Monday, Feb 9 morning.

OneIndia News (With inputs from Agencies)

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