Four-hour mock operation was to test airport's preparedness
A mock aircraft hijack exercise conducted at the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) on Tuesday afternoon sent the security agencies, officials and airport staff into a tizzy.
The four-hour mock drill was to test the airport's preparedness in dealing with unlawful interference with civil aviation operations and to validate its response plan in the case of such incidents.
Although the exercise brought to the fore some lapses in regard to the functioning of certain agencies, the lapses were not serious in nature. The exercise ended without any trauma, official sources told The Hindu .
The ‘news' of the hijack of the Delhi-bound Jet Airways flight even before the takeoff, spread like wildfire and there was panic at the BIA.
Trouble erupted at the rear of the aircraft when it was getting ready for pushback after the crew on board had just closed the doors. One person took ‘captive' of the steward, forced his entry into the cockpit and declared that the flight had been hijacked.
The hijacker told pilot Victor Tango, who was commanding the aircraft, that there were three hijackers on board and insisted that the flight should not take off.
Pilot Tango flashed an SOS to Air Traffic Control (ATC), which in turn alerted the agencies concerned for speedy action. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Bangalore police cordoned off the area and evacuated other aircraft parked in that bay.
On hearing the news of hijack, friends and relatives of the passengers and curious onlookers gathered at the airport and the police had to struggle to control the crowd.
Meanwhile, the pilot spoke to ATC again and informed that the hijackers were carrying pistols and bombs in their bags. Home Secretary-2 Raghavendra H. Auradkar, who is also the Chairperson of the Aerodrome Committee, arrived, took stock of the situation and apprised the Central Committee in the Union Home Ministry.
The leader of the hijackers, who identified himself as Kobara, wanted the release of six of their associates serving in various jails in India and a safe passage to a country of their choice along with the released associates on the same aircraft. The hijackers threatened to blow up the flight if their demands were not met with.
Madhavan Unni, a trained negotiator from the Union Government, reached the airport but Kobara insisted that the Prime Minister should talk to them. The negotiator told the hijackers both the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister were unavailable.
At this, hijackers ‘killed' four passengers one by one and threw their bodies out.
By this time, the National Security Guards (NSG) commandos, who had arrived from Hyderabad, stormed the aircraft, ‘killing' the three hijackers, and freed the passengers.
Meanwhile, Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL) said in a press note that routine flight operations were not affected during the mock drill as it was conducted during the scheduled maintenance closure of the airport. Over 300 people participated in this exercise that took place from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m.