Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets on Monday, October 3 escorted an Iranian Mahan Air plane that was passing through the country’s airspace on its way to Guangzhou in China after receiving a bomb threat. Tehran later asked Indian authorities to disregard the bomb scare.
The IAF’s Su-30MKI fighter jets shadowed the plane till it left the Indian airspace. IAF promptly swung into action to scramble a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter each from the Jodhpur and Halwara (Punjab) airbases, which “followed the aircraft at a safe distance”.
The pilots of the Mahan Air plane had chosen to continue flying towards Guangzhou despite Indian authorities granting permission for the plane to land in Jaipur or Chandigarh following inputs from Lahore’s air traffic control (ATC) about a possible bomb on the flight. The plane was moving towards Delhi airspace when its pilots were informed about the threat.
According to ANI, during the wait, the pilots of the aircraft requested priority to land at Delhi airport. Indian air traffic control denied the request and provided vectors to Jaipur airport, which the A340 crew did not accept. They then decided to continue to the flight’s destination, the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
However, the Delhi Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) refused to land in Delhi for security reasons. The airplane made three separate holding circles while it was waiting for a solution, but the ATS would not budge.
An AAI official said the aircraft was loaded with fuel and waited in the Jaipur airspace to burn some of it ahead of a possible emergency landing when the Lahore ATC contacted to convey that there was no bomb on the aircraft. “It was after this clarity that the pilots decided to go ahead instead of landing in India,” the official said.
As an aircraft is required to lose weight before it lands, the Iranian plane flew in circles just in case it needed to make an emergency landing.
“On October 3, 2022, intimation was received of a bomb scare on an airline bearing Iranian registration, when it was transiting through Indian airspace. IAF fighter aircraft were scrambled, which followed the aircraft at a safe distance. The aircraft was offered the option to land in Jaipur or Chandigarh. However, the pilots declared their unwillingness to divert to either of the two airports. After a while, intimation was received from Tehran to disregard the bomb scare, following which the aircraft continued on its journey. All actions were taken by IAF as per the laid down procedure, jointly with Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). The aircraft was under close radar surveillance by the Air Force throughout the Indian airspace.”Indian Air Force (IAF)
According to Flightradar24, the Mahan Air flight W581 was in the Delhi-Jaipur airspace briefly before making its way out of India. In a statement on Twitter, Mahan Air said the Airbus A340 aircraft, which has a capacity of between 320 and 475 passengers, landed safely and on time in Guangzhou, and that the bomb threat was a hoax.
At our operations control center, we determined that the threat was false and the flight continued its journey safely. The reports of a bomb on board the aircraft were solely aimed at disrupting security and tranquillity, the airline said. It should be recalled that Iran is currently at the center of the world’s attention due to allegations of human rights violations following the death of activist Mahsa Amini two weeks ago.
There have been numerous bomb threats made against commercial aircraft over the last few weeks. A UPS Boeing 747-8F was forced to make a detour to Iceland’s Keflavik a few days ago after receiving a threat. A fighter jet escorted a Singapore Airlines A350 into SIN just 24 hours earlier after a passenger on board reported having a bomb in their luggage.