A VIP Embraer aircraft en route from India to Mauritius carrying External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to South Africa went incommunicado for 14 minutes, prompting the Mauritius Air Traffic Control (MATC) to press the panic button, Airports Authority of India (AAI) said in a statement.
Contact could not be established with the Indian Air Force flight IFC 31 after it left Male ATC for Mauritius airspace on Saturday, the statement read further.
The alert Mauritius air traffic control authorities activated the uncertainty phase, known as INCERFA, instead of waiting for the mandatory 30 minutes.
“Mauritius ATC activated the uncertainty phase without allowing the stipulated time period of 30 minutes to lapse from the time when the aircraft last contacted ATC. This was perhaps done because the flight was carrying a VIP,” the AAI said.
Since the Embraer-135 aircraft, carrying the minister, does not have a long range, it had stopovers at Thiruvananthapuram and Mauritius for refueling.
The flight had left for Mauritius from Thiruvananthapuram at 2.08 pm. After it left the Indian airspace, it was handed over to the Male ATC which established contact with the flight at 4.44 pm IST.
Soon after it was handed over to the Mauritius ATC, the incident unfolded leading to panic. However, everyone heaved a sigh of relief when the aircraft came in contact with the ATC there at 4.58 pm, the AAI said.
The Ministry of External Affairs has not commented on the issue so far.
Swaraj is in South Africa to attend the BRICS and IBSA meets—the two major groups where India has been playing a major role. She will also meet the top leadership of the country.
(With PTI Inputs)