Mumbai, Feb 9: It appears to be a goof-up by the Air Traffic Control in Mumbai which allowed a helicopter of President Pratibha Patil's fleet to land on the runway of the Mumbai airport even as an Air India plane was about to take off for Delhi from it.
However, a possible tragedy was avoided by the pilot of the Air India flight to Delhi, IC 866, who aborted take off when he saw the helicopter, which was not carrying the President on board, landing on the runway he was about to use, official sources said.
They said the Air Traffic Control had given clearance for the helicopter to land but simultaneously gave take off permission to the Air India flight.
The alertness of the pilot of the aircraft prevented a major disaster.
Meanwhile, an official spokesperson of the President said that "Everything is perfectly fine. The President was attending her normal functions."
Mumbai international aiport authorities did not comment on the incident, saying that, "this is purely an issue concerning the Mumbai Air Traffic Control, which had allowed both the landing and the take off."
A probe into the incident has been ordered by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the sources said. The probe will be headed by Joint Director (Investigation), DGCA, A K Chopra, they said, adding that he would be reaching here from New Delhi to join the investigation.
Pilot of Airbus-321 Captain S S Kohli wondered how the chopper landed when he had been given a clearance by the ATC to take off. "The chopper just landed without taking a landing clearance. I cannot say much more," he said.
An IAF spokesman said in New Delhi, "the pilots of the chopper had followed the instructions from Bombay approach meticulously. The Presidential entourage was cleared to take off from INS Kunjali and land at Santa Cruz between two taxiways".
An inquiry has been ordered by the IAF into the incident, he said.
A passenger on board the Air India flight said, "We were going to Delhi and there were few second left for flying and at that time the chopper came from upper side.
"Emergency brakes were applied by the captain," he said, adding that the passengers saw the chopper which had the Indian flag embossed on it.