The Indian Air Force on Wednesday said the refusal by its pilot to fly Rahul Gandhi from Kokrajhar to Guwahati in Assam was because of safety reasons and it strongly stands by the decision of its officer.

“Based on the prevailing weather and approaching sunset, the pilot taking the safety of the VIP as being paramount, arrived at the decision that it was unsafe to undertake the flight,” IAF spokesperson Wg Cdr Gerard Gallway said.

“The pilot’s decision was taken using his professional judgement in the interest of safety of aircraft and its occupants.

“IAF strongly stands by the decision of the pilot, since flight safety and the safety of the VIPs on board are considered paramount,” he said.

Due to the refusal by the pilot to fly, the Congress leader had changed his travel plans for reaching Guwahati from Kokrajhar.

“The last leg was planned from Kokrajhar to Guwahati around 1700 hours and the weather at Guwahati was reported as continuous rain, lightning and thundershowers, with two cumulonimbus (CB) cells overhead and in the vicinity of the airfield,” Mr. Gallway said.

The weather at diversionary airfield Hashimara and en route from Kokrahar to Guwahati was also overcast with low clouds and widespread rain patches, he said, adding the helicopter has still not been able to return to Guwahati due to continuing bad weather.

Mr. Gandhi was on a day’s trip to the state on Tuesday to meet victims of ethnic violence in relief camps and held discussions with Bodoland Territorial Council leaders on the prevailing situation in Assam.