Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Afghanistan conflict: The Air India flight out on a fateful Sunday

When an Air India flight carrying 40 passengers - all Afghans - from Delhi approached the airport in Kabul on Sunday afternoon, air traffic control cleared it for landing.

It was a warm, sunny day with temperatures rising to 35C.

The six-member crew had little idea of how fast things were unravelling on the ground. Taliban fighters were seizing Kabul after the government in Afghanistan collapsed, bringing to a swift end almost 20 years of a US-led coalition's presence in the country.

Even as the pilot prepared for landing, air traffic controllers told them to hold in the air, without giving any reasons.

For the next 90 minutes, sources in the airline said, the flight circled at a height of 16,000ft (5,000m) over the capital.

Anticipating landing delays and accounting for the fact that air communication at heights around Kabul can be sometimes patchy, the plane was carrying extra fuel.

Air activity around Kabul airport is also often "busy and tedious", pilots say. During this time of the year, flying into the city poses an extra challenge: the winds are strong and gusty.

There were at least two other foreign airlines circling in the air above Kabul awaiting clearance to land.

The 160-seater Air India Airbus 320, commanded by Captain Aditya Chopra, finally landed around 15:30 Kabul time.

16/08/21 Yahoo!News

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