The final business flight to Kabul had a dramatic touchdown and take-off simply as fighters belonging to the Taliban have been capturing Afghanistan’s capital, taking on the Palace and securing the perimeter of the town’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Air India flight quantity 243 took off on time, slightly after midday, Sunday, however the floor actuality modified in simply the 2 hours that the aircraft took to attain Afghanistan airspace. Just because the crew ready for touchdown and the pilots tried to coordinate with Air Traffic Control, it received no reply.
“Zero reply. We were just met with silence,’’ said one of the crew members who did not wish to be named. According to another, there was no other aircraft in the vicinity and the pilots had no choice but hold their descent into Kabul.
In the meantime, other airlines were directing their pilots to turn around and not land in Kabul.
Several airlines, including United Airlines and British Airways, stopped using Afghanistan on Sunday. Lufthansa, KLM and Air India stopped operations Monday, after the war-torn country’s civil aviation authority issued NOTAMs or notices to airmen, closing its airspace to all civilian flights.
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AI 243 stayed in the hold position for over an hour. It could do so for another few minutes. As one official, interviewed for this story said, “The flight had holding fuel for 10 to 12 minutes.”
Unknown to the pilots, the Taliban had reached the gates of Kabul and have been making ready to take over the Palace. That was additionally the time Afghan President Ashraf Ganai was making ready to flee.
Would AI 243 be able to land and bring back Indians stranded in Kabul? The pilots weren’t sure. They couldn’t have requested to land at a close-by airport. Their commonplace working process required them to return to Delhi.
An hour’s silence from the ATC is excruciatingly lengthy.
In that hour, American troops have been working their helicopters to evacuate their employees out of their embassy in Kabul. They have been additionally serving to President Ghani flee. The Taliban had made it clear: they weren’t prepared to accept an interim authorities. They had reached the outskirts of Kabul and have been ready to enter the Palace.
After a protracted, one hour, the Americans took over the air site visitors management and IA 243 lastly received a reply: they may land however after the Americans had airlifted their envoys out of their embassy.
The drama didn’t finish after Air India lastly managed to contact down on Kabul’s runway.
The airport neither had floor dealing with employees nor safety personnel. The flight wanted to refuel for its journey back to Delhi. The gas bowser driver was nowhere to be discovered.
The turn-around flight took three hours to depart the Taliban-controlled nation; however solely after the Americans helped discover a driver for the bowser and the Air India crew doubled up to security examine the passengers and their baggage.
The final civilian flight lastly landed in Delhi and the crew relaxed after a harrowing day however solely after being grilled by senior administration officers and officers from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. Their foremost fear: did anybody apart from a passenger make it back on the final flight out of Kabul?