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.
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:
“ 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.