24 years on, pilot of IC-814 hijacked from Nepal reveals how he scared Lahore ATC to get permission to land


PTI, Aug 6, 2023, 11:23 AM IST

New Delhi: Twenty-four years after the shocking hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu in Nepal, its pilot Captain Devi Sharan has revealed that he had made a secret plan to scare the Air Traffic Control at Lahore by pretending to crash land the aircraft on a highway.

Till date, it was understood that Capt Saran, his co-pilot Rajinder Kumar and flight engineer AK Jaggia had decided to land the aircraft at the Lahore airport against the decision of the Pakistani authorities, and while doing so, they mistook a highway for the runway as lights on the runway were switched off.

It was a narrow escape as the aircraft was about to touch the highway when they realised it and pulled it up immediately.

Way back in 2003-04, Jaggia, while narrating the IC-814 hijacking story to the media, said that when ATC refused them permission to land at the airport and switched off the runway and airport lights, they had no option but to grope in the dark to locate the runway as the aircraft was dangerously low on fuel.

While doing so, they tried to land the aircraft on a highway as, according to Jaggia, they identified a long stretch which looked like a runway from the sky, but when they descended closer to it, suddenly they realised that it was a highway. “The pilot pulled the aircraft up within no time,” Jaggia, who passed away a few years ago, had said.

However, Capt Saran said that it was a deliberate move and only he was aware of it because he didn’t want even his co-pilot to know of his plans.

“There were two terrorists standing behind me in the cockpit, and whatever I used to communicate to my co-pilot or the crew, they used to understand everything. So I decided to keep certain things to myself,” Capt Sharan told PTI during a recent event to mark the Aviation Security Culture Week from July 31 to August 5.

Capt Sharan, who was the chief guest at the event, added, “When the Lahore ATC refused permission to land the aircraft, I made a plan to pretend to crash land the aircraft so that it would put pressure on them to switch on the runway lights and allow us to land there”.

A device called a Transponder fitted in the aircraft provides location details to the ATC and, according to him, with the help of this device, they thought that he was going to crash land the aircraft.

“Believe me, my plan worked, and I immediately got a communication from the ATC that the runway is open, and we safely landed there,” Sharan said, adding that he never told his co-pilot and crew about his secret plan.

The brief story of IC-814 is that it was hijacked by five terrorists on December 24, 1999, 40 minutes after it took off from Kathmandu at 4 PM.

The aircraft carrying about 180 passengers remained hostage for eight days and flew from Kathmandu to Amritsar and then to Lahore. It was re-fuelled in Lahore and left for Dubai. From Dubai, it went to Kandahar, where all the passengers were released on December 31.

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