Pilots of an Air India aircraft spotted four flying objects, allegedly parachutes, in the south of Mumbai on Friday morning.
Air India Flight 671 took off for Chennai at 9.30 am. After taking off from the airport’s main runway, it took a left turn. About 10 minutes later, when the aircraft was at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the pilot informed the air traffic control tower (ATC) that he could see four parachutes flying at a lower altitude. The parachutes were yellow, red, blue and green in color and sighted at a distance of 20 km from the city airport.
All coastal police stations, namely Arnala, Virar, Palghar, Satpati, Kelwe Road and Dahanu, were alerted by police officials after they came to know about the spotting of parachutes.
The directorate-general of civil aviation (DGCA) has ordered a probe into the matter. A senior DGCA official said, “The ATC has informed us about the message from the AI crew. We will begin our preliminary investigation.”
Another senior official from DGCA, on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper that the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security should make some provisions keeping in mind the frequency of such incidents in recent times and the police should be guided accordingly.
While DGCA officials maintained that no conclusion has been drawn about the identity of these flying objects, a senior ATC official said that parachutes are meant for jumping from aircraft but ATC’s city radar did not show any other flight in the area at that time, so chances are that the flying objects are not parachutes.
In January, on two separate occasions, parachute-like flying objects were reportedly spotted, first by a Pawan Hans pilot and then by an Air India passenger, within a week of each other. An investigation was launched by the police and ATS. That apart, on January 14, an Air India aircraft had to go around before approaching the runway for landing as a flying object came near it.
Police sources said that a preliminary inquiry into the incident has revealed that the passenger saw those objects near Matheran. There are several flying clubs in Matheran which organize sky rides by parachutes so chances are the passenger saw one such parachute. About the sighting by the Pawan Hans pilot, no conclusion has been drawn.