Expat pilot flying for Alliance Air detained by Indian Air Force

One ex-pat pilot flying for Alliance Air was detained by Indian Air Force security on Monday for allegedly taking pictures and videos of a restricted aerodrome at the Uttarlai Air Force Station, Rajasthan on his mobile phone. Hired to operate a charter flight to Delhi, the pilot has had a formal complaint lodged against him, by the IAF, with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). He was hired to operate Alliance Air charter flight 9I962, with 23 passengers on board a ATR 72-600(VT-AIZ) aircraft. The incident occurred while the flight was readying for departure from Uttarlai to Delhi “Boarding was on when the pilot, a Brazilian national, started taking videos of the air force station. It’s not known if he was shooting out of curiosity, as an aviation enthusiast or if there were other reasons. He was caught by the IAF security personnel and detained for questioning,” said a TOI source. The charter flight was to depart around noon, but with the pilot not available, the aircraft stayed on ground for close to five hours, the source said, adding that the flight finally departed for Delhi late evening. “The incident has caused much consternation among the airline officials, especially with Republic Day a few weeks away,” they added. Under the IAF norms laid down for operation of civil flight from its aerodromes, “no aerial/ ground photography from the aircraft is permitted and no sensory equipment is to be carried by passengers in hand bags.” Civil non-schedule flights (charter flights) with foreign crew members can operate to these IAF air stations only after obtaining clearance from the Defence Ministry. For foreign crew members, airlines operating scheduled flights are required to obtain clearance from ministry of home affairs (IB) and ministry of external affairs. Uttarlai Air Force Station in Barmer, Rajasthan lies close to the country’s border with Pakistan. Given its geographical proximity, the station played a critical role in the Indo-Pakistan war. An Alliance Air spokesperson said that the pilot concerned has been ‘de-rostered pending investigation’.