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US plane blame on Pak route

Mumbai, Feb. 4: The US plane forced to land in Mumbai yesterday had strayed into Indian airspace because the Pakistan air traffic control gave it the wrong flying route.

Last evening, the Indian Air Force had scrambled two MiG 21 fighters to force down the American plane that had strayed from its assigned path of Karachi to Male. It landed at Sahar International Airport here at 6.11 pm.

The plane was flying on the N-519 route segment that is not open between 6 am and 6 pm.

Airport director Sunil Kumar said an Intelligence Bureau team from the Centre interrogated the 11-member crew of the commercial plane.

According to airport authorities, the intelligence officials questioned Captain John Burg and his crew from morning.

The plane, still at Sahar, will be allowed to leave as soon as it gets clearance from the directorate-general of civil aviation, Kumar said. The plane was carrying no passengers.

Earlier today, the air force gave its clearance to the crew of the Boeing 757, belonging to the US-based Comco Corporation.

In Delhi, civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain said the intelligence inquiry was complete, but refused to give the details.

US vice-consul general Michael Cole today met the crew, now put up at the reserved lounge of the airport. The aircraft has been towed away from the isolated bay and parked at the international terminal, airport authorities said.

Comco is an aviation and engineering company handling chartered flights and providing engineering services from Nashville. The aircraft took off from the US on January 31 and reached Karachi yesterday.

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