New Delhi, Feb. 9: A plane today breached the no-fly zone over the Prime Minister’s residence and managed to land at an airport before the emergency response system could be activated.
The violation exposed a glaring hole in the country’s most protected air space that was declared a no-fly zone after the September 11 strikes in America.
The intruder plane was later found to be that of the Punjab government, meant to ferry chief minister Amarinder Singh. Officials were tightlipped but PTI said Amarinder was on board when the plane buzzed over Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 7 Race Course Road residence.
Had the prescribed response system rolled on its own, fighter planes should have immediately taken off and intercepted the intruder. If the errant aircraft refused to change course, the security apparatus is empowered to take extreme action.
“The aircraft in question could even be shot down. Frankly, it exposes a very serious lapse on the part of those responsible for the Prime Minister’s safety,” a security expert said. The protected aerial zone covers the Prime Minister’s residence and Raisina Hills which houses Rashtrapati Bhavan and the secretariat.
Security agencies did swing into action and surround the plane but after a radar spotted the 10-seater C-90 landing at Safdarjung Airport, used mainly for training young pilots to fly smaller aircraft, at 5.07 this evening. The plane’s two pilots have been detained.
The pilots, one of whom is a retired air force official, told investigators that they spotted a bunch of birds at the Safdarjung runway, forcing them to take a turn. It was then that the plane came close to the Prime Minister’s house.
Amarinder said it was not a deliberate attempt and there was some communication error.
Immediately after the incident, a high-level security meeting was convened.