News Recent news — 07 October 2016

NEW DELHI: Indian carriers have asked their pilots operating flights that overfly Pakistan to avoid landing there in an emergency situation.

Unless there is an “extreme emergency”, like fire on board, airlines have ‘informally’ told pilots to opt for Muscat or UAE flight information region on westbound flights, or head to Delhi, Mumbai or Ahmedabad on India-bound flights.

“Flight despatchers are asking that Pakistani airports be avoided for emergency landings if possible. These instructions have not come in writing but verbally. Making an emergency landing in Pakistan is the last resort for us in an extreme emergency,” said a senior pilot with a leading Indian carrier who regularly operates international flights.

Confirming this, a senior commander of another big Indian airline said that such ‘informal’ instructions have been issued in the past too whenever relations with Pakistan have deteriorated, like after the Kandahar hijacking, 9/11 and 26/11.

Sources said that for west-bound flights, the closest ‘preferable’ emergency landing airports are in Muscat and UAE, like Dubai, Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. “Iran and Afghanistan, though the immediate neighbours of Pakistan, are considered ‘less of an alternative’,” said a route planner with a leading Indian carrier.

In case of the common occurrence of pressurisation failure, for instance, overhead oxygen masks drop.These have oxygen to allow passengers to breathe for 1015 minutes.

That is sufficient time for aircraft to descend from their cruising altitude, which is about 30,000ft, to 10,000ft, where oxygen is available and can be pumped into the plane through the AC ducts and “Ram air”.

Such planes can then keep flying at the lower altitude to make their way to an alternative airport.

Almost all flights from northcentral and east India to and from Gulf, Europe and America fly over Pakistan.

While even in aviation ties, the Narendra Modi government has been showing utmost restraint, Pakistan has been constantly imposing restrictions on its airspace and increasing the scope of the same, which has now required Indian carriers overflying it to make changes on some of their international flights.

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