Rahul Gandhi, a scion of India’s most prominent political dynasty, had a narrow escape when his private aircraft nearly landed on a runway already occupied by an air force plane.
Rahul, the son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is tipped to be the Congress candidate for prime minister in the upcoming 2014 national elections to the lower house of parliament. His father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi and great-grand father Jawaharlal Nehru were once India’s prime ministers.
On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi was returning to Delhi after a visit to the family-stronghold of Rae Bareli assembly constituency in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
According to media reports, Gandhi’s Cessna Citation jet was given permission to land by air traffic controllers at the Indira Gandhi International airport in the capital New Delhi.
As the pilots came in for landing, the controllers realised there was an Indian air force Ilyushin aircraft on the runway. At the last minute, the controllers asked the pilot to abort landing.
Fortunately for the aircraft and Gandhi, the pilots were able to push up the aircraft and fly away from what would have been a sure collision.
Apparently, the controllers estimated that the Ilyushin would move away from the runway before Gandhi’s Cessna landed. But, the Ilyushin which is reportedly known for its lethargic movement was still on the runway, said the Times of India newspaper, quoting a source.
Two pilots were reportedly captaining Gandhi’s Cessna Citation, a luxury American business jet, the reports said. India’s directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry into the near-disastrous lapse.
Terming it a procedural lapse, the sources told the media that there were clear procedures on spacing between aircraft and the process of landing and takeoffs. Moreover, Gandhi’s Cessna is considered a swift aircraft while the Ilyushin is notorious for its slow movement on the ground, reports said.
The inquiry will determine what cause the controllers to miscalculate and whether all procedures were adhered to.
Gandhi’s uncle, the late Sanjay Gandhi once considered the successor to India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi, was killed in an air crash over New Delhi’s Safdarjung airport in 1980. Reports at the time said Gandhi, who was piloting a small aircraft, attempted a loop and lost control.