New Delhi :
A Kabul-bound SpiceJet aircraft was in intercepted for almost an hour over by Pakistan Air Force fighter jets and was then escorted out of the country’s airspace last month. “The SpiceJet flight was mid-air when two Pakistani F-16 jets flanked the commercial plane and asked its pilot to lower its altitude and report to them with the flight details,” reported ANI.
The incident occurred on September 23 and the flight involved in the incident was SG-21, which had taken off from Delhi for Kabul. Around 120 passengers were on board.
According to DGCA officials, confusion over the "call-sign" assigned to the Boeing 737 aircraft hand prompted the interception.
The SpiceJet captain briefed Pakistani F-16 jet pilots, saying, "This is SpiceJet, Indian commercial aircraft, which carries passengers and is going to Kabul as per schedule," sources told ANI. The incident happened when Pakistan airspace was not closed for India.
According to sources, every flight has its code, like SpiceJet is known as 'SG'. It caused confusion and Pakistani ATC misunderstood SpiceJet as 'IA' and misinterpreted it as the Indian Army or India Airforce.
One of the passengers, on condition of anonymity, said that the Pakistani fighter pilot instructed SpiceJet pilot through hand signs to lower the altitude of the commercial plane.
"At the time when Pakistani F-16s were flying around their flight, all passengers were asked to shut their windows and maintain silence," the passengers told ANI. After the confusion was sorted out, the F-16 jets escorted the SpiceJet out of Pakistan airspace till they entered Afghanistan, confirmed a DGCA official.
Earlier, Pakistan had closed its airspace to India amid an escalation of tension between India and Pakistan after IAF carried out airstrikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp at Balakot on February 26.