The DGCA has set up a two-member panel to probe the technical snag in a chartered plane carrying Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to Karnataka even as the civil aviation minister said appropriate action would be taken if anyone is found wanting after the opposition party alleged foul play.
As the Congress described the incident as "horrific" and "serious" and demanded a probe to find out if there was any "foul play", party sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Rahul Gandhi just before leaving for China yesterday to inquire about his safety.
A civil aviation ministry official said it would be too premature to conclude any "intentional tampering" as alleged by the Congress.
The incident happened during landing of the flight at Hubballi in north Karnataka yesterday. The Congress president was travelling to Karnataka as part of his poll campaign.
Alleging "intentional tampering" with aircraft, the Congress party yesterday demanded a probe into the "suspicious and faulty performance" of the 10-seater Falcon 2000.
Also Read: Rahul Gandhi's flight develops technical snag, Congress says 'intentional tampering' possible
Police probing the technical snag are awaiting the arrival of technical experts to examine the problem and submit a report while a senior airport official maintained there was nothing "unusual" in the manner it landed in Hubbali.
"The Directorate General of Civi Aviation (DGCA) has set up a two-member panel to investigate the incident. While one member is from the Directorate of Air Safety, the other member is from the Directorate of Airworthiness," a senior DGCA official told PTI.
The panel has been asked to submit its report in the next 2-3 weeks, the official added.
As part of the probe, the official said the panel would call cockpit crew and also engineers for questioning about the incident.
If required, the committee might also call the operations staff of the particular aircraft to gather details, the official said.
A senior DGCA official yesterday confirmed that the aircraft had suffered a "technical snag".
"According to the operator's report, it was a snag of auto pilot mode and the pilot shifted to the manual (mode) and landed (the aircraft) safely," he had said, adding that shutdown of auto pilot (mode) incidents are not uncommon.
"For any VIP flight, the DGCA examines it in detail. We shall do that here also," the official had said.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said that as soon as he heard about the incident he directed the DGCA to conduct a detailed inquiry and to find out the cause of the snag.
"If there is anything found wanting and whoever is responsible for it, we will take appropriate action," Prabhu told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai.
In a letter to Karnataka State DGP Neelmani N Raju, Gandhi's close aide Kaushal Vidyarthi said the weather was normal.
"It was apparent from the suspicious and faulty performance of the aircraft that the incidents of shuddering and altitude dipping were not natural or weather-related, but were due to some technical snag...," the letter had said.
A senior civil aviation ministry official said DGCA is already looking into the incident and it would probe all the angles as is done with any VIP aircraft involved in such incidents.
"It would be premature to comment on anything now including the tampering theory and we would await the probe report," the official said.
One of the officials in the Ministry referred to a statement of Hubballi airport director S K Ahalya having reported that the aircraft had a safe landing.
The plane suddenly tilted heavily on the left side and the altitude dipped steeply with violent shuddering of the aircraft body at 10.45 am, Gandhi's close aide Kaushal Vidyarthi wrote in a letter to state DGP Neelmani N Raju yesterday.
Congress's communications in charge Randeep Surjewala described the incident as "horrific" and "serious" and demanded a probe to find out if there was any "foul play".
He claimed that an aircraft carrying a Special Protection Group (SPG) protectee developing such a snag was unprecedented.
During the incident, the Congress chief had maintained his composure and even tried to calm the co-passengers down, Surjewala said. Another complaint was filed with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), demanding a thorough inquiry into the incident, he added.
On a complaint filed by a close aide of Gandhi with state DGP Neelamani N Raju, an FIR has been registered under IPC sections 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), police said.
"We are waiting for the experts from the DGCA to come as we have no technical knowledge about the subject.
"Based on their report, we will initiate further action," ACP North, Hubballi, H K Pathan, who is the Investigating Officer, said.
The aeroplane stationed at the Hubballi airport would also be examined, he added.